WASHINGTON — Administrators from Christian and Catholic schools nationwide have signed on to a letter urging Congress to pass a law that would protect religious schools from punishment over their biblical beliefs on marriage.
Daniel Egeler, the president of the Association of Christian Schools International, Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Michael Ferris, the Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Alan Hodak, the executive director of the Minnesota Association of Christian Schools, were among those who signed the letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“We write to express our deep concern with the potential loss of tax-exempt status for educational institutions should the Supreme Court find constitutional legitimacy for same-sex marriage,” it read.
The letter pointed to the dialogue during oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in April, as Justice Samuel Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. if a faith-based college or university could be stripped of its tax exempt status should the court rule in favor of such marital arrangements.
“In the (1983) Bob Jones case, the court held that a college was not entitled to tax exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?” Alito asked.
“It’s certainly going to be an issue,” Verilli replied, stating he would need to look into the matter more. “I don’t deny that.”
The letter then cautioned that “[t]he implications of such a stance are far-reaching and would affect religious schools from grades K-12, colleges and universities, theological seminaries and graduate schools, and any other religious or nonreligious-based educational institution in the United States that holds to natural marriage.”
It noted that there are approximately 29,000 faith-based schools in the United States, as well as 1,700 religiously-run colleges and universities, many of which would be adversely affected if the government strips the entities of tax exemption.
“The majority of these institutions hold to religious traditions that forbid sexual intimacy outside of marriage between one man and one woman, and will not jettison these convictions for any tax benefit,” the signees stated.
“[T]he tax exempt status they enjoy helps substantially in enabling them to offer quality education to millions of young Americans,” they continued. “Its loss would be premised on a historic abandonment of the principles of religious liberty that are foundational to our republic and also would have a profoundly adverse financial effect on religious-based primary, secondary, collegiate, and post-graduate institutions.”
As previously reported, the aforementioned Patrick Henry College president had also noted in a USA Today op-ed last month that it is not taxation that worries him as much as the lack of funding that might then close schools.
“[S]ince PHC refuses all government aid, all of our donations for scholarships and buildings come from tax deductible gifts. Cutting off that stream of revenue is effectively the end of such colleges absent a team of donors who simply don’t care if gifts are deductible,” Michael Ferris explained.
Therefore, the letter to Boehner and McConnell urged the passage of the Government Non-Discrimination Act, which had previously been presented to Congress and will soon once again be brought up for consideration.
“Any federal initiative, whether generated in the judicial, executive, or legislative branches of government, to remove tax-exempt status from faith-based educational institutions because of their commitment to their beliefs about marriage would result in severe financial distress for those institutions and their millions of students,” the signees wrote.
“Additionally, it would result in millions of students losing the choice of a faith-based educational experience that has been of historic value to the country for over 150 years,” the letter continued. “Further, it would constitute a devastating and dangerous blow to free religious belief and practice in a nation founded upon such.”