It Begins: New Calls To Strip Churches of Tax Exempt Status After Same-Sex Marriage Ruling
For years conservatives and proponents of religious liberty in America have warned that if same-sex marriage became legal, the left would then pursue revoking the tax exempt status for religious institutions, particularly Christian churches, around the country.
Just days after the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that gay marriage is a constitutional right, progressive activists like Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times are calling for tax exempt statutes to be stripped.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn’t be subsidizing religion and non-profits.
Rather than try to rescue tax-exempt status for organizations that dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality, we need to take a more radical step. It’s time to abolish, or greatly diminish, their tax-exempt statuses.
Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argues that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say. But of course government revenue would go up, and that money could be used to, say, house the homeless and feed the hungry. We’d have fewer church soup kitchens — but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.
So yes, the logic of gay-marriage rights could lead to a reexamination of conservative churches’ tax exemptions (although, as long as the IRS is afraid of challenging Scientology’s exemption, everyone else is probably safe). But when that day comes, it will be long overdue. I can see keeping some exemptions; hospitals, in particular, are an indispensable, and noncontroversial, public good. And localities could always carve out sensible property-tax exceptions for nonprofits their communities need. But it’s time for most nonprofits, like those of us who faithfully cut checks to them, to pay their fair share.
The left will claim they aren’t singling out religious institutions through their calls for the revocation of tax exempt statuses because they include non-profits, but the fact is that a majority of non-profits in the country are religious. The Salvation Army, which truly helps the homeless and addicted clean up their lives and get off the streets, is one example.
Meanwhile, the ACLU said over the weekend it will no longer defend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s after a unanimous vote in the Senate.
Although Justice Kennedy did carve out an exception for religious liberty in his opinion on same-sex marriage last week, it won’t be enough to protect it going forward.
“Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex,” Kennedy said in the opinion.
Religious liberty is under attack in America and the next five years will serve as a battleground to protect or destroy it. If religious liberty is in fact destroyed, America will no longer hold onto one of the most important principles that makes it an exceptional nation more tolerant than the rest in the world. We are at a tipping point.