Taxpayers are funding the evil of religious organisations

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Former principal Malka Leifer was arrested over the alleged sexual abuse of girls in her care (Screenshot via YouTube)

Organisations that have ties to child sex abuse scandals are being funded out of taxpayers' pockets, writes Peter Wicks.

RIGHT NOW, people are scared for their lives and their jobs. Businesses are being forced to close their doors, many are going broke. We all know that.

What we don’t know is whether we are headed for a recession or a depression.

So perhaps now is a good time to scrutinise who is gifted with tax exemptions and who we prop up with millions of taxpayer dollars.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve watched on in horror as Sarah Ferguson has delved into the world of the paedophile priests the Catholic Church provided with access to hundreds of vulnerable children. The Catholic Church and its associated entities are responsible for the most heinous of violent crimes against children perpetrated on an industrial scale.

The Catholic Church has sought to cover up these horrific crimes for decades and once uncovered, have spared no expense defending the indefensible. Why do they spare no expense? Because in the end, we are the ones paying for it.

While it is virtually impossible to put a figure on how much taxpayer money goes to the Catholic Church, or any other religious group as a collective, there are indicators.

If we look at the Catholic school system, which has been responsible for producing more sexual assault victims than any other organisation, the figures are staggering.

Most of the funding for Catholic education systems is paid for by us, the taxpayer.

In Victoria last financial year, the Federal Government funding towards Catholic schools was more than $1.9 billion and from the state governments just over $490 million according to the CECV financial report.

In NSW, the combined federal and state funding totalled $6.1 billion.

It’s not like there isn’t a public school system available, one that could do with some of this funding.

Any assumption that these billions of our dollars don’t assist the legal team defending paedophiles is delusional. This just allows them to spend these dollars on operating costs rather than take money out of operating costs to pay for legal fees.

This is just two states from one piece of the Catholic organisation. It does not include the organisation's churches, aged care facilities and outreach centres. Not bad money for a foreign institution.

But as reported by Fairfax last year, Scott Morrison thinks they’ll need another $4.1 billion in funding over the next decade.

It’s easy to single out the Catholics as they are the largest religious organisation with their wandering hands reaching out for the public purse, but as we all know, they aren’t alone.

Another is the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army’s paedophile platoon left a trail of broken and shattered lives in their awful wake.

According to the Salvation Army’s 2019 Annual Report, the cost of their depravity amounted to $39.3 million that year alone. This is listed as National Redress payments.

The total amount raised by the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal in 2019 was $78 million and in their financial report, the Salvation Army points out:

‘No Red Shield Appeal funds are used to cover National Redress claims.’

At least they’ve altered their cashflow spreadsheets so the funds can be utilised in a way that doesn’t impact their donations too much.

Never mind, however, the taxpayer funding in 2019 of $323.9 million is more than enough to cover the Redress payments. It no doubt helps with a few of those nasty legal fees, too.

It’s not just the Christians either.

One high profile abuse case is the notorious Malka Leifer. Ms Leifer, the former principal of the Addas Israel Girls School in Elsternwick, is wanted in Australia to face 74 charges related to allegations of the sexual abuse of girls in her care.

Instead of facing these charges, however, she currently lives as a free woman in Israel while Australia makes repeated attempts to have her extradited to face trial.

It is alleged that members of the secretive ultra-orthodox Jewish community notified its leaders and they then organised for Ms Leifer to flee the country in the middle of the night with tickets to Israel — tickets hurriedly booked through the aptly-named Breakaway Travel.

So what does our government do about those who seek to rush alleged paedophiles out of the country to escape justice? Fund them, of course.

In its 2018 Annual Performance Report, the Addas Israel School reports a recurrent income of $8.94 million. Of that, 62.7% is Federal Government-funded and a further 29.1% comes from the Victorian Government. This leaves the school itself to have to raise a paltry 8.2% of its own revenue. Aiding and abetting have never been so profitable.

I enquired with Victoria Police this week as to the investigation into those who helped her flee and was given this response:

‘There is no update to provide at this stage. The investigation remains ongoing. As this is a current investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.’

I hope those investigating aren’t charging by the hour.

State and Federal MPs have talked about working hard to have Leifer brought back to face justice, although none of them has sought to cut the funding to those who helped her flee. In fact, some have supported grant applications by the school.

Also disturbing to note that this is the same ultra-orthodox group that defied social distancing restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. The group made the decision that their prayer meeting was vastly more important than the lives of others in the community and met on Wednesday night. The matter is being investigated by police.

Let’s hope this investigation is a bit quicker.

There is no doubt that religious organisations do some good in our communities. But there is also no doubt that we are paying for it hand-over-fist. As a society, we provide these institutions with billions of taxpayer dollars and then praise their generosity when they give a few thousand back.

There is also little doubt that with a global pandemic spreading fear and confusion, there will be those in our community that seek to make a profit out of this crisis. Scammers and religious institutions amongst them.

At a time of national crisis, we should be putting the needs of people ahead of the desires of the superstitious.

It has taken a global pandemic to have this government consider raising the Newstart allowance for our most vulnerable. Even then, it is only temporary. Meanwhile, the gravy train rolls on unhindered for those institutions whose heinous crimes we are still uncovering.

It’s time this gravy train stopped.

Peter Wicks is a former Federal Labor Party staffer. You can follow him on Twitter @MadWixxy.

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