WASHINGTON – A Republican Senator from Utah has introduced a bill that would protect churches and other non-profit organizations from punishment over their stance on the institution of marriage.
Senator Mike Lee, a Mormon, proposed the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” on Wednesday due to fears that the U.S. government may one day seek to revoke the tax-exempt status of religious entities that refuse to recognize same-sex “marriages.”
He stated that although Obama has made statements supporting religious freedom following the Supreme Court’s decision to nix key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he still has concerns that taxes could be a target in the future.
“This bill protects the rights of individuals and organizations from religious discrimination by the federal government,” Lee wrote in a statement this week. “Those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage deserve respect and tolerance. It is critical that we clarify the law to ensure that their fundamental civil liberties are not at risk.”
“Nearly every member of Congress on both ends of the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle, will at least purport to be a strong supporter of religious liberty, and this should be an uncontroversial position to take,” he added to the Washington Examiner. “I don’t think anyone believes that the federal government ought to be making religious doctrinal decisions on behalf of churches and other religious institutions.”
Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, John Thune of South Dakota, David Vitter of Louisiana and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma are among those who have signed onto the act as co-sponsors.
The legislation works in concert with a House bill that was introduced earlier this year by Republican Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho.
“Regardless of your ideology, we can all agree about the importance of religious liberty in America,” Labrador wrote in a news release outlining the act. “Our bill will protect freedom of conscience for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. As President Obama said, ‘Americans hold a wide range of views’ on marriage and ‘maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom’ is ‘vital.’ We agree.”
Under the bill, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would be barred from denying or revoking the tax-exempt status of organizations who reject homosexual “marriage,” and other government agencies would be prohibited from denying religious individuals and groups any available benefits or otherwise discriminate against them in any way.
The Washington-based National Organization for Marriage expressed support of both the House and Senate bills on Thursday, urging Americans to contact their Congressmen and implore them to vote yes on the measures.
“NOM is very grateful to be working with advocates in both the House of Representatives and the Senate who are standing up and emphasizing the need to protect religious freedom from government overreach and targeting,” President Brian Brown stated in an online article that included discussion about the matter. “By having bills in both chambers, it provides a greater opportunity for debate and raises the profile of this crucially important issue.”