In una lunga inchiesta apparsa pochi giorni fa sul New York Times (Diana B. Henriques, «As Exemptions Grow, Religion Outweighs Regulation», 8 ottobre 2006), viene dipinta una situazione che ricorda per molti versi le recenti polemiche italiane sull’esenzione dell’Ici concessa dal precedente governo agli esercizi commerciali gestiti dalla Chiesa cattolica:
At any moment, state inspectors can step uninvited into one of the three child care centers that Ethel White runs in Auburn, Ala., to make sure they meet state requirements intended to ensure that the children are safe. There must be continuing training for the staff. Her nurseries must have two sinks, one exclusively for food preparation. All cabinets must have safety locks. Medications for the children must be kept under lock and key, and refrigerated.Sarebbe interessante capire quale sia la causa di questo peso spropositato accordato alle religioni organizzate in parti così diverse del mondo. Personalmente trovo la spiegazione usuale, che invoca un vago «ritorno alla spiritualità», profondamente insoddisfacente. Mi pare più probabile che il fenomeno si inscriva, come fase più recente, in quel brusco spostamento dell’asse politico verso destra – e in particolare verso una società più conservatrice, gerarchica, immobile, di cui la religione costituisce l’indispensabile complemento ideologico – che si è verificato alla fine degli anni ’70 in Occidente.
The Rev. Ray Fuson of the Harvest Temple Church of God in Montgomery, Ala., does not have to worry about unannounced state inspections at the day care center his church runs. Alabama exempts church day care programs from state licensing requirements, which were tightened after almost a dozen children died in licensed and unlicensed day care centers in the state in two years.
The differences do not end there. As an employer, Ms. White must comply with the civil rights laws; if employees feel mistreated, they can take the center to court. Religious organizations, including Pastor Fuson’s, are protected by the courts from almost all lawsuits filed by their ministers or other religious staff members, no matter how unfairly those employees think they have been treated.
And if you are curious about how Ms. White’s nonprofit center uses its public grants and donations, read the financial statements she is required to file each year with the Internal Revenue Service. There are no I.R.S. reports from Harvest Temple. Federal law does not require churches to file them.
Far more than an hourlong stretch of highway separates these two busy, cheerful day care centers. Ms. White’s center operates in the world occupied by most American organizations. As a religious ministry, Pastor Fuson’s center does not.
In recent years, many politicians and commentators have cited what they consider a nationwide “war on religion” that exposes religious organizations to hostility and discrimination. But such organizations – from mainline Presbyterian and Methodist churches to mosques to synagogues to Hindu temples – enjoy an abundance of exemptions from regulations and taxes. And the number is multiplying rapidly.
Some of the exceptions have existed for much of the nation’s history, originally devised for Christian churches but expanded to other faiths as the nation has become more religiously diverse. But many have been granted in just the last 15 years – sometimes added to legislation, anonymously and with little attention.
(Grazie ad Angelita per la segnalazione.)