Tax Breaks for Dutch Student Witches?

I’ve run across several rposts of an AP article about a court ruling to allow students attending a “school for witches” in the Netherlands to write off the cost of tuition for tax purposes. Having seen it, I thought it would be a good idea for me to post my own thoughts.

First of all, I expect there to be a huge fuss over this. As the article indicates, there’s already those who are of the opinion that this is little more than a government “endorsing witchcraft.” And I suspect we will be hearing more of the same as the news gets out. (I can just hear the howls of outraged 700 Club fans now.) Of course, I find myself wondering why no one complains about the number of “church owned projects” that are being “endorsed” by the government due to the fact that the church can extend their tax exempt status to those projects. (Even my evangelical and rather conservative father is becoming disgusted with how American churches are — in his opinion, at least — abusing their tax exempt status by the things they claim as “church owned.”) In my mind, all of this outrage underscores the deep-seated belief that Christians have the right to decide what constitutes a “religion” deserving of Constitutionally protected status.

Now, having said that, I have to admit that I have my own concerns about this decision. For example, according to the article, the court ruling indicated that scholing costs can be declared if said schooling increases their likelihood of employment and personal income. I find myself wondering how attending a school for witches reasonably does either. Unless the Netherlands actually allows for professional witches to hire out their services — and for all I know, they do — I don’t see how this improves their employability. I’ve never seen a job opportunity where my circle casting or chanting skills have been all that relevant, let alone something that would give me a “leg up” on my competitors for the position. I might be able to argue that there are subtle life skills I have learned as I’ve practiced my Craft that have contributed to my effectiveness as an employee. However, that would be tough to argue. And it would be nearly impossible to argue that I’d specifically learned those skills thanks to a school in witchcraft. I’m just not sure how someone can reasonably demonstrate that an “education in witchcraft” has improved their employability except in very rare cases. (The other possibility that comes to mind is that one could become a professional tarot reader. But again, I can think of alternative — and cheaper — routes to get set up in that line of business.)

Of course, given where my interest lie, the idea of a “school” where you “learn witchcraft” — and pay for it, no less — just makes me bristle. The taking of money implies that anyone who can pay the almost $3000 and attend all the courses will become a witch. As I understand witchcraft, that’s not how things work. Being a witch is learning more than the “right stuff.” It’s as much about attitude and the ability to see things in a certain way as it is about knowing the right things — or even knowing how to do the right things. And these are things that one cannot guarantee a student will learn.

Now having said that, I’m sure that the people going to this school all learn something. And whatever they may be learning might be valuable. I’m just not sure it’ll always be “witchcraft” that they’ve learned. And I certainly don’t think it guarantees that every student who completes the course of study will attain “witchhood.”