THE POLITICS OF RELIGION

Almost Any Sect, Cult, Or Religion Will Legislate Its Creed Into Law If It Acquires The Political Power To Do So.

— Robert A. Heinlein

The headline screams,

N8.5bn fraud: Atewe gave N35m to Winners’ Chapel – Witness

Clearly, there needs to be some closer regulation regarding the operations of religious organizations? Organized religion needs better organization.

Should churches and mosques pay tax, for instance?

Someone thinks financial – sources & uses – transparency should be a good place to start from on clearing out the Augean Stable.

Uses of funds, yes. But, sources of funds? How? Churches or mosques aren’t investigative bodies, or are they?

And the discussion started.

Does the source of money taint the money itself?

Now, it is not necessarily big amounts donated that could be tainted. If you don’t want dubious money in places of worship, those places will simply shut down. You can’t organize anything without money.

That vulcanizer who overcharged the car owner, the mechanic who cheated on parts, they all drop money in the offering basket like the Yahoo boy who just ‘hammered’ and offered to install split-unit air_conditioning units throughout the worship building – Are we going to be investigating the source of all those?

Best bet.. keep preaching holiness and uprightness, and hope the attendees embrace the strait and narrow path. Forget pondering on the source of their money.. it is an exercise in impractical futility. The uses to which funds are put can easily be tracked, but tracking the source of funds? By a religious organization?

I don’t think so.

Someone chipped in,

You made a valid point, but how about those we ourselves can identify as looters – such as corrupt politicians, confidence tricksters, etc.?

Should religious leaders still play dumb even when they know?

My response to this was,

Well,legally, you can not assume anyone has made his money illegitimately, without proof.

Without this proof, you can only leave things to the creator. Note that assumptions can be wrong.

The religious organizations are not involved in juridical matters. The law enforcers and prosecutors are statutorily so mandated.

So, that Pastor who has NO PROOF that the fat cheque someone just offered is from some clandestine business deals can not really do anything about this, even if he has his suspicion.

And like I said earlier, most of us are crooked. The big crook gets a mention, but how clean is the average poorer Joe in the street?

The moralist would not be deterred,

A Pastor/Imam receives regular contribution in the millions from a police DPO as tithe, and he does not think he has a divine duty to enquire how this police officer comes about the money?

Or a 24-year old without any known source of income suddenlybuys a coaster bus for his church, and you think God will not question the Pastor-In-Charge for playing dumb?

What is being advocated isn’t even the moral self-compliance but for government to do its job of bringing sanity by creating proper statutory framework for managing these religious organizations as not-for-profit/charities. This should include regulating, supervising and auditing their “sources and uses” of funds.

I agree, to a large extent, on what should be.

However,

The Pastor / Imam can’t question source of funds based on pure conjecture.
I know a pastor who has never used a car in his life. His first car, bought recently was a Hyundai Elantra, new. From afar, you would wonder how he was able to buy this car so suddenly.

Well, he got the money from a Network Marketing Scheme. Just saying, the pastor or Imam can’t jump to conclusions based on purely circumstantial evidence.

Truth is, there is a huge difference between what should be and what IS. I am of very little doubt that most churches aren’t registered, and lack any formal way of reporting activities to the requisite regulatory governmental bodies.

We operate in an environment of volatile religious consequences. A governor eyeing a re_election may chose not to act on certain religious issues so as not to antagonize a particular religious practitioners, and jeopardize his chances!.

Lawlessness, yes, but political expediency at play! So, the blame is equally distributable between the ‘lawless’ and the society at large.

Big churches like those well known ones in Ikotun, Lagos and Otta Ogun State operate as laws unto themselves.

There was the report of Lagos State officials performing their statutory duties. manhandled by the one in Otta, while the one in Ikotun had a building collapse inconclusively unaddressed – years after.

This is why I talked about the apparent impotence of law regarding religious issues here in Nigeria.
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From the ethical or religious angle, though, it is quite disheartening for financial crime units to trace slush funds to citadels of spirituality.

It just leaves a bitter taste in the mouth!

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