At least two outspoken homosexual advocates are calling for churches nationwide to lose their tax-exempt status following last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring that all 50 states must legalize same-sex “marriage.”
“[N]ow that the U.S. government formally recognizes marriage equality as a fundamental right, it really shouldn’t skew the tax code so as to give millions of dollars in tax breaks to groups which remain steadfastly bigoted on the subject,” wrote Felix Salmon, senior editor for Fusion, in an article entitled “Does Your Church Ban Gay Marriage? Then It Should Start Paying Taxes” last Monday.
He pointed to the Supreme Court ruling that resulted in the revocation of Bob Jones University’s tax exemption because of its stance surrounding interracial couples.
“The same argument can and should be applied to gay marriage,” Salmon stated. “If your organization does not support the right of gay men and women to marry, then the government should be very clear that you’re in the wrong. And it should certainly not bend over backwards to give you the privilege of tax exemption.”
He said that while he understands the concept of religious freedom, he doesn’t believe churches should be “rewarded” with tax exemption if their beliefs are contrary to Supreme Court rulings.
“[W]hen those views are fanatical and hurtful, they come into conflict with the views of any honorable legislator who believes in freedom and equality. And at that point, it makes perfect sense for our elected representatives to register their disapproval by abolishing the tax exemption for organizations who cling to narrow-minded and anachronistic views,” Salmon wrote.
TIME columnist Mark Oppenheimer made similar statements the day before in an article entitled “Now’s the Time to End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions”, commenting on a bill introduced by Utah Sen. Mark Lee, which seeks to protect the tax-exempt status of churches in light of the Supreme Court ruling.
“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,” he wrote.
Oppenheimer then sought to dispute reasons for allowing the exemption to remain in place.
“Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argue that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say,” he said. “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.”
“[T]he logic of gay-marriage rights could lead to a reexamination of conservative churches’ tax exemptions,” Oppenheimer repeated. “But when that day comes, it will be long overdue.”
Aaron Goldstein, a writer for the American Spectator, disagreed. While he divulged that he personally supports same-sex “marriage,” he doesn’t believe the government has a right to meddle in the beliefs of the Church and noted that the Bob Jones ruling only applied to schools.
“Contrary to Salmon’s claims that the government should be very clear in telling churches they are in the wrong for not supporting same-sex marriage, there is absolutely no governmental interest where it concerns the affairs of churches or purely religious institutions,” he wrote. “Simply put, the government has no business telling churches and purely religious institutions that they are wrong about opposition to gay marriage or any other matter.”
“The federal government must leave churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious assemblies alone in this matter,” Goldstein said. “If they do not see fit to leave them alone, then the very concept of separation of church and state will have lost all meaning. It would end the separation of church and state as we know it.”
As previously reported, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Patrick Henry College Chancellor and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Michael Farris warned that if the court ruled in favor of homosexual nuptials, the decision could result in tax exemption revocation for Christian schools. However, he also opined that the threat will not likely end there.
“No one should think that IRS implications will stop with colleges. Religious high schools, grade schools and any other religious institution will face the same outcome. And this includes churches,” Farris said. “Even if it takes the IRS years to begin the enforcement proceedings against such institutions, we can expect other fallout from this decision to begin shortly after the release of the Supreme Court’s opinion.”
According to the documentary “A Defense of God’s Law,” the nation’s decision to allow tax exemption for churches was grounded in Scripture. It cites Ezra 7:24, which outlines, “Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.”