BUDDHIST and Taoist temples across China received government instructions Thursday, warning them against seeking profits in the name of religion.
A guideline to regulate commercial activities in Buddhist and Taoist temples was jointly issued by 12 departments including the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, and the Ministry of Public Security.
The document reminded Buddhist and Taoist temples of their nature as nonprofit organizations and forbade any organizations or individuals from profiting from religious activities.
Although temples are allowed to engage in commercial activities, such as publishing books, or selling religious objects and artwork, the activities should be for maintenance and operation of temples or for charity programs, said an SARA statement.
Commercial activities by Buddhist temples are intended to promote Buddhism in approachable ways and will not aim to make a profit, said Master Xuecheng, president of the Buddhist Association of China.
Li Guangfu, chairman of China Taoist Association, echoed Xuecheng’s comment by saying that it is important for temples to draw a clear line between necessary commercial practices and profit-seeking ones.
SARA decided to tighten supervision on the financial management of temples, asking them to adopt the same systems of finance, tax, asset management and accounting as nonreligious institutions.
Temples should register at taxation authorities and report their revenues and expenditures according to the law, the document said.
A third-party supervisor will be introduced to oversee the financial operations and the donated funds of temples, and relevant information will be published.
Promoting religion online will also be subject to government regulation. Organizations and individuals that would like to provide religious information services online should apply to the provincial religious affairs departments, according to the document.
The guideline also pushed local governments to curb the seeking of profits in the name of religion.
Tourist sites known for their religious significance are banned from charging high entrance fees, and local governments are discouraged from erecting unnecessarily large religious idols and building temples in nonreligious locations for the sake of attracting tourists.
They should not fuel a “religious craze” as a way to boost the economy and develop tourism, the document stressed.
The government will crack down on organizations and individuals that hire fake monks or Taoists and hold illegal rituals to gain donations or encourage irrational spending on religious rituals. (Xinhua)