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Government Crusade Against Churches Begins with Removal of Non-Profit Status


In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision mandating that states reward same-sex marriages throughout the nation, churches across the country prepare for the inevitable assault on their tax-exempt statuses.

“Beliefs” columnist for The New York Times, Mark Oppenheimer, wrote at that churches should have their tax-exempt statuses ripped away for opposing same-sex marriage. Felix Salmon at Fusion wrote the same thing:

[T]he US government subsidizes churches to the tune of many billions of dollars per year by giving them tax-exempt status. … The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, but that’s free as in love, not free as in beer. Taxation is a purely secular affair, and by default it applies to everyone equally, whether they’re a religious institution or not.

The left wishes for a nation where same-sex couples are given tax benefits for participation in a homosexual lifestyle, but where churches are punished for rejecting that lifestyle.

And it won’t stop with churches. The Christian Science Monitor asks whether conservative religious colleges will lose their tax-exempt statuses. Professor Michael Olivas of the Institute for Higher Education Law & Governance at the University of Houston said, “I don’t think that a number of these religious schools can reasonably hope to adhere to principles that are clearly in violation of public policy, a la Bob Jones.” As I wrote years ago, the Bob Jones University case, in which the IRS removed non-profit status from the university over its rules on interracial dating, will now be used as precedent by the IRS to go after non-profit institutions over same-sex marriage.

The crusade against religious churches and schools amounts to bigotry against religious believers – a bigotry clearly expressed by University of Virginia law Professor Douglas Laycock, who told The Washington Post, “The gay rights side keeps escalating its demands and public opinion keeps shifting in their favor. … Conservative believers are their own worst enemies and lead people to think they are hateful morons, so they’re not getting much sympathy.”

And this is the point: when public consternation governs the regulations on churches, we have violated the purpose of the First Amendment. There is no First Amendment right to tax exempt status, but as the Supreme Court wrote in Walz v. Tax Commission of City of New York (1970), the leading case on tax exemptions for religious institutions:

Grants of exemption historically reflect the concern of authors of constitutions and statutes as to the latent dangers inherent in the imposition of property taxes; exemption constitutes a reasonable and balanced attempt to guard against those dangers. … Elimination of exemption would tend to expand the involvement of government by giving rise to tax valuation of church property, tax liens, tax foreclosures, and the direct confrontations and conflicts that follow in the train of those legal processes. … The grant of a tax exemption is not sponsorship, since the government does not transfer part of its revenue to churches, but simply abstains from demanding that the church support the state.


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