Waco churches could do more

After reading the gushing Sept. 20 column about the immense value of pastors to the nation and community, I wondered something. According to my count from a church-finding website, I am showing almost 300 churches in the Waco area — That’s at least 300 pastors. Yet I can’t drive so far as Taco Bell without being begged two or three times for money or a meal.

The homeless in our area include hundreds of adults and 1,400 Waco ISD students. These people make homes out of vacant storefronts, bridge underpasses and worse. In 2013, 15,000 school kids in Waco, that’s 90 percent, and greater than 30 percent of the general population here in Waco, were at or below the poverty level.

While a 10-Year Homelessness Plan has been put into place by the City of Waco and has showed some success, I’m not certain it’s their job. KWTX reports 244 homeless people in the immediate downtown area, so by my logic, if about two-thirds of churches in the area agreed to “be their brother’s keeper” and house literally one homeless person each, Waco’s urban homelessness problem would be a fraction of what it currently is. We give unprecedented tax breaks to churches; they pay no property taxes, income taxes, state taxes or even, sometimes, sales taxes.

Donations are tax deductible. They don’t have to file 990 forms like any other charity, and this is all done because churches are said to offer a critical public service. My question is: where are they? Our nation could be making $71 billion a year if we taxed churches. What is our community getting for this revenue sacrifice? I hear pastors preaching love and charity and executing some token programs once a week or so, but when it really comes down to it, they’re nowhere to be found.

In contrast, there are three Church’s Chicken locations in the Waco area. Just 1/100th of the number of houses of worship. These establishments pay federal taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and more. They provide jobs to the local community and help raise people out of poverty through employment. They offer medical, dental, vision and life insurance, a prescription drug plan, paid vacations, a 401K plan, short- and long-term disability, flexible spending accounts, pre-paid legal and identity theft protection insurance, employee assistance programs and service awards to their employees. And they make food.

Maybe if our churches started acting a little more like our Church’s, I’d be willing to give some credit to pastors.

Michael Incavo, Spring senior