The Cost of Religion in Canada Part 1: Canadian Taxpayers Funding the Advancement of Religion

by | November 26, 2019

By British Columbia Humanist Association

[Ed. With permission, we will be publishing updates from the BCHA in Canadian Atheist. We will start with the newest one first as a test and then work from the earlier works and move forward into the present. As per the current format, the links to the original article will be at the bottom wile above the image credit.]

On the About Us page: “The British Columbia Humanist Association has been providing a community and voice for Humanists, atheists, agnostics, and the non-religious of Metro Vancouver and British Columbia since 1982. We support the growth of Humanist communities across BC, provide Humanist ceremonies, and campaign for progressive and secular values.

We are a registered charitable organization. Our mission is:

  • to promote the ideas and philosophy of secular humanism by all available means of education and communication;
  • to serve the educational needs of its members and others of humanistic, scientific and naturalistic outlook, in a democratic, non-dogmatic manner free from authoritarian doctrine;
  • to provide opportunities for fellowship, study and service at all levels of humanistic endeavour, and to advance the values and welfare of humanity in dedication to the continuing enhancement of human life through human effort and understanding;
  • to offer and provide meaningful ceremonies to members and non-members at significant times such as marriage and death; and
  • to elaborate and to express publicly Humanist positions on issues of concern to people, including values, morality and ethics.

Find out more about Humanism or the issues we support.

We are run by a democratically-elected volunteer Board of Directors and a small staff. We are funded entirely by donations from individuals who share our vision for a world based on reason and compassion.”

Governments in Canada provided subsidies of up to $2.6 billion for the advancement of religion in 2017, according to a new analysis by the Centre for Inquiry Canada. The Government of British Columbia alone provides as much as $156 million.

The numbers come from the first part of The Cost of Religion in Canada, a report produced with support from the BC Humanist Association. Using data obtained from returns submitted by charities to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), it estimates the cost to taxpayers of providing tax receipts for donations to charities that “advance religion.”

Across Canada, religious charities issued tax receipts for nearly $7 billion in donations in 2017. Over $1 billion of those donations were to charities based in British Columbia. Using estimates for the value of those tax write-offs, the report estimates the total cost of subsidizing religious charities to be between $1.6 and $2.6 billion nationwide.

Those losses are split between the federal and provincial governments. British Columbia alone forwent between $53.6 and $155.6 million.

The report focuses only on charities that identify one of their purposes as the “advancement of religion,” which is one of four “heads” of charity (the others being relief of poverty, advancement of education and other purposes beneficial to the community). It therefore excludes religious-based educational institutions, homeless shelters and other charities. The CRA requires that any for charity that claims to advance religion, “there must be an element of theistic worship.” In other words, the Government of Canada does not consider it a charitable activity to advance a non-theistic worldviews like Humanism. The BCHA’s charitable purposes are educational and in the promotion of human rights.

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:

This report lays out how our governments disregard their constitutional duty of religious neutrality by subsidizing and privileging the promotion of some worldviews to the exclusion of others. If people want to promote their beliefs about the supernatural, they should do it without the expectation of a public handout.

Gus Lyn-Piluso, President, Centre for Inquiry Canada:

The right to be religious is a personal freedom we enjoy in Canada. However, Canadian taxpayers, as citizens of all faiths and citizens of no faith, should not be forced to subsidize the advancement of religion through tax exemptions.

Previous work by the BCHA has shown that the Government of BC provides over $1 billion to religious-based healthcare facilities$265 million goes to private religious schools and 88% of municipalities provide some exemption to religious properties (beyond their place of worship).

The BCHA has also consistently argued that Canada’s charity laws need to be modernized to provide equity between theistic and nontheistic belief systems.

Read the Report

Originally published on the British Columbia Humanist Association website.

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican Atheists,American Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Image Credit: British Columbia Humanist Association.

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