And thank you again, Richard! I must say, you seem very knowledgeable about Taiwanese legal matters. You’re a human rights activist here, I believe?
A general legal principle is that just because my religion says I can or should do something, doesn’t mean the government will let me. Anything to do with visas, finances, or marriage will come under secular laws. (As a rare concession there is a “missionary” visa, but it is designed for religious bodies which already have a well-established presence here, not struggling new ones which want to do first-generation missionary work.)
A ministerial friend tells me that one of the reasons to formally register is so the group can hold bank accounts in its own name. That way if somebody donates money “for the cause,” it doesn’t have to pass through my private accounts–which (a) looks bad, and (b) might make the tax people think I’m richer than I am! I don’t believe the tax code here allows deductions for them, though.
There are apparently three different ways to register, all of which require money and/or minimum numbers of registered believers. The list of twenty religions (as opposed to religious bodies–think “Christianity” instead of “X Baptist church”) seems to be entirely at the discretion of the government. As far as I know it carries no definite advantage except prestige for being written up in the government book on ROC Religion.
But my major concern is that the government may crack down on me for holding religious meetings (since as a foreigner I have no rights), if they disapprove of anything they think we’re doing. Do you happen to know about laws covering the most basic form of religious freedom? I believe the Jehovah’s Witnesses had problems because they are pacifists, and were therefore deemed a negative social influence (because of military conscription). And I already mentioned the Moonies, though that was a long time ago.
The chi-gong movement had a big crackdown a few years ago, mainly because some of them were claiming to do things like cure cancer and AIDS. Apparently that’s illegal–but then, what about charismatics? Maybe the illegal thing was that the chigong people did it for money?
One more thing. The “valid visa” problem–if I have a visa for one purpose but do something that another visa is given for, sometimes this is okay (you can study while you work) and sometimes not (but you can’t work while you study). So, if I do something which is perceived as missionary work, while not on a missionary visa, am I expellable? I note that musicians have been kicked out for performing (working) for free.