Religious groups should not be tax exempt

The Herald reports:

The secretive Gloriavale religious community owns assets worth $36.6 million, including a dairy farm, deer enterprise and an aircraft repair firm.

The tax-exempt charity operating as the Christian Church Community Trust is run by four church leaders and overseen by Hopeful Christian, who is referred to in documents as the “Overseeing Shepherd”.

Assets and financial results of the West Coast Gloriavale Christian community are listed on the Charities Services website, a government agency which is part of the Department of Internal Affairs.

The trust’s annual returns for August 2013 through July 2014 show it is worth more than $36.6 million and made a net profit of more than $1.86 million in that year.

Former members Elijah Overcomer and Mordecai Courage told Campbell Live the trust owns everything in the community, and when members leave they take nothing with them.

Mr Courage said he had spent his whole life in the community and worked for the benefit of the community, but was entitled to nothing after he left.

The 30ha farm in the Haupiri Valley where the community lives and works is worth $10,200,719, and no community members are paid for their work in its eight companies.

Merely promoting a belief in a supreme being should not qualify an organisation for tax exempt status.

If an organisation (whether religious or not) does charitable work, then they should qualify on the basis of what they do – but not on the basis of what they believe.

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