February 20, 2013
Jamaican Churches Offer To Pay Taxes To Help Broke Government
Payments would be part of indebted island's preparation for IMF loan.
A spokesman for the Jamaican Umbrella Groups of Churches (JUGC), which represents most of Jamaica's Christians, said churches would be willing to pay property taxes in order to generate funds for the country’s federal government. But they would not be willing to pay taxes on weekly offerings.
The property taxes would be part of a process to increase public revenue so the country can apply for a long-term loan from the International Monetary Fund, which would help repay Jamaica's national debt.
The member denominations of the JUGC have “substantial” real estate holdings, said chairman Rennard White. The Church of God in Jamaica, Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, Jamaica Council of Churches, Jamaica Pentecostal Union (Apostolic), Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church are all part of the organization.
A Jamaican pastor also told his parishioners in a recent sermon that paying taxes shows obedience to God.
The Jamaican finance minister recently introduced a $16.4 billion tax measure in the island nation's parliament. The JUGC responded with a press release advocating that the government reduce the cabinet size, slash salaries of public officials, and reduce the number of advisers serving the governor. However, they also offered to pay taxes on church-owned property.
CT has regularly reported on Jamaica, including the controversy surrounding a pastor who helped defuse a drug war, a Bible translation tiff, and pastors recently being banned from evangelizing on public transportation.
When CT visited Jamaica in 1999 to report on the island's abundance of churches, the Seventh-day Adventist fraction of the population was about 5 percent. According to Adventist Today, the figure is now 15 percent, making the denomination the largest in Jamaica with more than 322,000 members. About three-quarters of a million people belong to Jamaica’s three largest denominations, according to the census report.