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Politicians eye taxing faith-based dissenters

By Jonathan Imbody | July 23, 2015

Excerpted from "Senate Dems Divided Over Revoking Charitable Tax Status of Religious Schools," The Weekly Standard July 8, 2015 - Will religious schools be punished by the government in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage? During oral arguments of the Supreme Court case, the Obama administration's top lawyer said that the charitable tax status of religious organizations that oppose gay marriage was "certainly going to be an issue."

On Wednesday, Richard Durbin, the second most powerful Democrat in the Senate, said he was unsure if he would support revoking the charitable tax status of religious schools. "There's no question this was an historic decision, and now we're going to go through a series of suggestions for new laws to implement it," Durbin told The Weekly Standard in the Capitol building. "I can't predict how this will end. But from the beginning we have said that when it comes to marriage, religions can decide what their standards will be."

But should religious protections extend beyond houses of worship to, say, religious schools that require employees to affirm their faith's teaching about marriage? "Getting into a challenging area, and I don't have a quick answer to you," Durbin replied. "I'll have to think about it long and hard."

Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, however, seemed open to taking away the charitable tax status of some religious institutions. "Religious freedom allows you to deal with teaching your religious principles without interference of the government. But when you're dealing with rights of third parties, then the protections are afforded for you to get the privileges of your tax-exempt status," Cardin said on Wednesday. "Employment is subject to protections," Cardin said. "I'm not sure how it applies to Christian-run schools."

Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, came out strongly against revoking tax-exempt status of religious schools opposed to same-sex marriage. "I just think that religious organizations should not be taxed," Baldwin told me. Baldwin was criticized last week by supporters of religious liberty for saying that the First Amendment's protection of the free exercise of religion does not protect "businesses and individuals" engaged in commerce.


Commentary

Jonathan ImbodyCMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody: “As our Christian brethren in territories controlled by radical Muslim terrorists suffer the loss of their very lives and livelihood, we do well to use the term ‘religious persecution’ judiciously.

“Nevertheless, as the Obama administration and other U.S. government officials move now to enforce a sexual ideology in opposition to Christian orthodoxy, suddenly we can imagine how ideological prejudice can turn into official discrimination and perhaps ultimately into real persecution. Newly introduced and contemplated government policies, coupled with cultural ostracism and judicial activism (ignoring the actual words and original intent of the U.S. Constitution) already have begun to marginalize the faith community.

“The process of prejudice and persecution is not new, even in our democratic republic founded on ideals of unalienable human rights and religious freedom. The U.S. Supreme Court advanced state-sanctioned prejudice, discrimination and subjugation in its 1857 Dred Scott decision that denied citizenship and legal protection to slaves.

“Exempting churches and faith-based charities from taxes is not simply a privilege accorded in return for the provision of valuable social services; it is a First Amendment principle that prevents the government from controlling religious belief and exercise through economic pressure. We now see this protective principle threatened, as government officials consider taxing any faith-based organization that refuses to submit to the government's new official ideology concerning sex and marriage.

“If the government can control religious teaching through the economic pressure of taxation, then the First Amendment—‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’—means nothing. Even the term ‘free exercise’ is by definition incompatible with taxation.

“This political virus is moving fast to threaten organizational expressions of the body of Christ, and we need to act fast to stop its spread. Take a moment now to support legislation protecting your First Amendment free exercise of religion—details under Action below.”

Action
Protect Marriage Believers from Govt. Discrimination – Use the editable letter on CMDA’s Freedom2Care legislative action website to urge your legislators to support the First Amendment Defense Act. This bill would prevent any federal government agency from discriminating against individuals, organizations and businesses because of their beliefs about marriage.

Resources
First Amendment Defense Act
www.Freedom2Care.org – CMDA's one-stop source on freedom of faith, conscience and speech
 

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