What Would Jesus Do? He’d Pay Unemployment Tax for His Workers

by Pamela Powers Hannley

HB2645, which was advanced by the Arizona Senate this week, would allow churches and religious schools to avoid paying unemployment tax for teachers and day care workers. Passed by the Arizona House in March, this bill would deny unemployment benefits to these workers if they were laid off or if the institutions closed.

Republicans, conservative groups, and religious schools are backing the bill. According to ABC Channel 15, "The measure marks the latest Republican-led effort to expand tax subsidies for religious institutions and limit unemployment insurance at a time when the state's jobless benefits fund is millions of dollars in the hole because of the struggling economy." [Emphasis added.] More details after the jump.

Religious schools are backing this? I have just one question for these "religious" schools: What would Jesus do? Obviously, he would take care of his workers. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

I work for a very small business– 3 employees. One of the many hats I wear is handling the payroll and the bills. My boss pays ~$450/year for unemployment tax. If an employer has a track record of laying off workers, their rate goes up.

In the ABC News article, an accountant who has several religious schools as clients said that her clients would have to pay $25,000-100,000 in unemployment tax and would be put out of business if they had to pay that. Let's say they have a stable workforce, and they pay ~$150/person/year (like my boss). At that rate, $25,000/year in unemployment tax = a workforce of 166 people, and $100,000/year = a workforce of 666 people. These are either HUGE religious schools, OR they have lousy working conditions that cause workers to leave or be laid off routinely, OR she's lying.

It is an abomination to allow any employers to mistreat their workers and deny them earned benefits, but it particularly disgusting and extremely hypocritical for religious schools and institutions to short change their workers.

Again, I'll ask the Bible-thumpers in our Legislature and the capitalists who run these "religious" schools: What would Jesus do? He would supply living wage, good working conditions, social safety net programs for the poor and elderly, and unemployment insurance for workers. It is disingenuous to call yourself a Christian and vote with the capitalists, over the workers and their children.

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