Hilariously, Pentecostal leaders have warned their congregations that a darkness will spread across Australia if their pet politician, PM Scott Morrison, does not win the next election. They also believe that Christians will be persecuted if Morrison falls over. Some of the gullible have been told that Morrison’s rise to power was a “miracle of god” and that he has made a public stand for Christian freedoms1. What those Christian freedoms are they neglected to mention. This is unsurprising given that those ‘freedoms’ involve mostly the continuation of their addiction to telling others how to live their lives and discriminating against those they do not like. Many want to ban abortion, repeal same-sex marriage, recriminalise homosexuality, prevent voluntary euthanasia and reintroduce blasphemy as a crime. However, mostly what they fear is their churches having to pay their fair share of tax. This fear is because most of these happy-clappy churches are all about what is called ‘prosperity theology’2 something that Morrison warmly embraces.
Prosperity Theology maintains that financial blessing and physical well-being are the will of god, and that faith, positive speech and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth2. Gullibility must be a prerequisite to join the congregation. These churches are simply tax-free money-making exercises. Hillsong is a perfect example: In 2004 donations and tithes were reportedly $15.3 million; merchandising a further $6.9 million, while by 2015, total revenue has passed the $50 million mark. All without a cent of tax being paid because of its charitable status3.
How much money do you think the combined churches in Australia make in one year? You will probably be shocked to learn that the ‘purple economy’ as it is called, makes $30 billion per annum. Of that, the Catholic Church makes over half, at $16 billion per annum. The wealthy Sydney archdiocese of the Catholic Church alone is worth about $1.3 billion. It owns half of Glebe, near the centre of Sydney; prime foreshore real estate on Port Hacking in southern Sydney, and other prime real estate it picked up for free in the colonial days4. Unlike their eponymous saviour, they have not eschewed wealth. They have become landlords and investment managers, yet all the money they make is tax free, every last cent of it. There has been a huge outcry from the public over large companies minimising tax, but the federal government has done little to remedy this avoidance. This is because those big companies donate funds to the Liberal and National parties. Unlike those companies, who employ accountants and lawyers to help them avoid tax, we actually help the churches avoid tax by giving them open slather as tax-free entities. This should stop, but it won’t, because with the ascendancy of the religious ultraconservatives in the Liberal Party, the churches are their people, and they are most unlikely to upset them. Imagine all the opprobrium heaped on Scott Morrison in his relatively regular visits to his Horizon church in Sutherland, in southern Sydney. He wouldn’t risk the ostracism that would ensue. As L. Ron Hubbard (founder of scientology) said “the only way to make a million dollars was to form your own religion”5. However, the enmity of other religions to scientology, has made it clear that it is safer to start your own church; it is just as lucrative as there are enough gullible people out there to keep the millions rolling in.
In a funny postscript, Tony Windsor, former Member of the House of Representatives for New England, tweeted that the ‘darkness’ which will follow Morrison’s electoral demise is actually Tony Abbott6. Would that Windsor was still the member for New England, instead of ‘beetrooter’ Barnaby Joyce7. The parliament would have more integrity and more wit.