Robert Francis O’Rourke is swinging for the fences. During Thursday night’s CNN LGBTQ forum he was rewarded with a home run by the studio audience when he said churches that don’t support same-sex marriage should lose tax-exempt status. The rest of America reacted as you would expect.
Don Lemon, an openly gay CNN anchor, moderated Beto’s time in the barrel during the forum. Lemon asked O’Rourke if he supports revoking the tax-exempt status for religious institutions such as churches, colleges, and charities if they don’t support gay marriage. His answer is yes. The in-studio audience applauded in approval.
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” O’Rourke said. “And so, as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
Got that? Robert Francis O’Rourke will punish churches for preaching religious doctrine by yanking tax exemptions. An O’Rourke administration would micro-manage your church from their perches in Washington, D.C. The next thing you know, Beto will be coming for a copy of your pastor’s sermon. Oh, wait. That has happened, not with Beto but during the administration of former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the city’s first lesbian mayor. She tried to subpoena the sermons of local pastors who were opposed to the city’s HERO ordinance in 2014. It was an equal rights ordinance that included the hot button issue of transgender people in public bathrooms. She finally dropped her demand to review the sermons.
This is an attempt to deter religious leaders from preaching the gospel. In the case of the Houston pastors in 2014, a group of them – the Houston area pastors’ council – banded together to take the fight to the voters. They got their message out to voters before a vote was taken on the ordinance. The mayor was so determined to ram through the ordinance that the Texas Supreme Court had to rule that the ordinance must appear on the ballot. Leftists don’t much care about civil rights except when it directly affects their preferred civil rights.
Under U.S. tax code law, churches are considered to be charities. They are exempt from federal, state, and local taxes. I assume Beto wants to tax churches at the federal level. He may or may not be the only Democrat in the race that supports this idea.
When Cory Booker was asked about stripping churches of tax-exempt status, he did what he always does – he waffled. Spartacus isn’t so brave when push comes to shove. He deflected a direct question and turned it into a lecture about discrimination in general. Brave, brave Spartacus.
Booker decried the Trump administration “turning against what the Obama administration did” and said “whether you’re a school and are providing health care for folks, whether you are a bakery, you cannot discriminate.”
“We must stand up as a nation to say that religion cannot be an excuse to deny people health insurance, education, or more,” Booker said. “This cannot happen. And I will make sure that I assert the laws to make sure.”
But Booker did not say whether those organizations should lose their tax-exempt statuses.
Moderator Dana Bash tried several times to get a straight (pardon the pun) answer but failed each time. “So would they lose their tax-exempt status?”
“Again, I will press this issue. I’m not saying, because I know this is a long legal battle. I’m not dodging your question. I’m saying I believe fundamentally that discrimination is discrimination,” Booker said. “And if you are using your position to try to discriminate others, there must be consequences to that. And I will make sure to hold them accountable using the DOJ or whatever investigatory. You cannot discriminate.”
“No yes or no there,” Bash followed up.“That is a process and I’ll make sure I will hold them accountable, if it means losing your tax status,” Booker said, adding, “there has to be consequences for discrimination.”
The arrogance of the far left is presented once again. It is easy to imagine what Americans watching this forum in middle America thought during this forum. If they tuned in, many Independent voters and moderate Democrats were thinking these candidates have lost their minds. Showing support to an LGBTQ loved one and other people in our lives is one thing. Going to extremes to pander for votes is another. Leftists show a real disdain for church-going Americans.
Arguing about tax exemption for churches as it relates to the separation of church and state is an old argument. Hardest hit would be small and rural churches which are often the glue that holds communities together. Churches provide aid for people in their communities that often fall through the cracks. As a conservative, I support church groups helping out whenever possible rather than the taxpayer being on the hook.
As Chief Justice John Marshall explained in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the power to tax is the power to destroy, and if religious tax exemption is revoked, thousands of churches in the United States could be forced to disband. Smaller, rural churches would suffer dramatically, as would churches occupying valuable land in the hearts of America’s great cities. Taxing churches would force many to close, which, in turn, would increase dependency on the state and deprive millions of social services.
Republicans should seize this opportunity to appeal to moderate Democrats and Independents who are reading about this forum today and seeing the quotes from the candidates. Regular Americans – those not beholden to extreme ideology – will see that this is further proof that liberals will try and shut down any opposing opinion, even if it causes the extinction of local churches. Yanking tax-exempt status because of religious doctrine is a new low in demanding conformity to groupthink.