tax exemptions

Democrats' 2020 surprise: Should churches that oppose same-sex marriage lose tax exemptions?

Democrats' 2020 surprise: Should churches that oppose same-sex marriage lose tax exemptions?

THE QUESTION: 

Should U.S. religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage lose tax exemption?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

At CNN’s recent “Equality Town Hall” for Democratic presidential candidates, co-sponsored with the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, anchor Don Lemon prodded Beto O’Rourke on whether “religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities” should “lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.”

O’Rourke (who self-identifies as Catholic) immediately answered “yes,” because “there can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America” that opposes such rights. “As president, we’re going to make that a priority.” The other candidates on stage assailed discrimination without specifying tax exemption. O’Rourke has, of course, dropped out of the White House race.

Later, Pete Buttigieg (an Episcopalian in a gay marriage) agreed that religious organizations such as schools “absolutely … should not be able to discriminate” and remain tax exempt, but he said rival O’Rourke hadn’t thought through that penalizing houses of worship would create a divisive “war.”

If government were to tax income or property or end tax deductions for donations due to traditional beliefs on sexuality, the targets would include the Catholic Church, the two biggest U.S. Protestant denominations and the largest African-American church body, countless evangelical congregations, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Orthodox Judaism and all Muslim centers and mosques.

O’Rourke subsequently seemed to back off, emphasizing that exemptions should be denied tradition-minded agencies that provide public services like “higher education, or health care, or adoption,” whereas practices within religious congregations are not the government’s business. (That might mean the government wouldn’t impose tax penalties due to sermons, parish education or refusal of gay weddings and clergy ordinations.)

The tax proposal poses palpable danger for a vast number of U.S. institutions, whether congregations or religious schools and agencies.

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Post-Beto podcast: Yes, it's time for reporters to ask about 'freedom of worship' (again)

Post-Beto podcast: Yes, it's time for reporters to ask about 'freedom of worship' (again)

First, an apology for a long delay (I have been on the road) getting to this important news topic — as in the hand grenade that Beto O’Rourke tossed, whether his fellow Democrats want to talk about it or not, into the 2020 White House race.

I am referring, of course, to his LGBT-forum statement that the U.S. government should strip the tax-exempt status of churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious groups that defend — even inside their own doors — ancient teachings on marriage and sex that do not mesh with modernized doctrines.

If you want to start a firestorm, that was the spark you would need in a nation bitterly divided on the role of religious faith and practice in the real world. Here’s the key quote:

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for any institution or organization in America that denies the full human rights and full civil rights of every single one of us,” he said. …

Will journalists keep asking about this or will that job be left to members of Donald Trump’s campaign advertising team? That was the topic we discussed during this week’s Crossroads podcast (click here to tune that in).

To its credit, the team at Religion News Service did a basic follow-up report: “Buttigieg, Warren reject O’Rourke plan to link church tax status, LGBT policy.” Here’s a crucial chunk of that:

“I’m not sure (O’Rourke) understood the implications of what he was saying,” said Buttigieg, an Episcopalian who is married to a man. “That (policy) means going to war not only with churches, but I would think, with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do.

“So if we want to talk about anti-discrimination law for a school or an organization, absolutely they should not be able to discriminate. But going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers, or other religious facilities in this country, I think that’s just going to deepen the divisions that we’re already experiencing.” …

In a statement to Religion News Service on Sunday, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign also pushed back on O’Rourke’s remark.

So, for journalists who are paying close attention, it would appear that O’Rourke’s bold stance represents the left side of the Democratic Party, while Mayor Pete and Warren are trying to find a centrist stance.

Reporters: What is the content of that center stance?

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About that Pew survey on politics and the pulpit: So what makes an issue POLITICAL?

About that Pew survey on politics and the pulpit: So what makes an issue POLITICAL?
Many Americans Hear Politics From the Pulpit

That was the takeaway from a recent national survey of thousands of churchgoers by the Pew Research Center.

This was the lede from Religion News Service:

(RNS) Most American churchgoers are hearing politics from the pulpits of their churches during this presidential election season, according to a new survey.
Nearly two-thirds of the respondents (64 percent) in the survey released Monday (Aug. 8) by the Pew Research Center say their clergy have spoken about at least one political or social issue in the spring and early summer.

And from the Los Angeles Times:

At wedding receptions, barbershops and on park benches, this year's unusual presidential campaign is often an unavoidable topic of discussion.
As usual in presidential races, it's also seeping into houses of worship across the nation. 

From Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, and from abortion to immigration, many Americans are hearing politics from the pulpit, according to a survey released this week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. 

But here's my question: Are Americans really hearing political issues from the pulpit?

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Liberty University and all those Pell Grants: Is this a topic for news or opinion?

Liberty University and all those Pell Grants: Is this a topic for news or opinion?

Over the years, your GetReligionistas have developed some logos to signal to readers that there are certain types of stories that we critique over and over and over. No, we haven't created a Kellerism logo yet, but who knows?

The "Got news?" logo us used when we see a really interesting news story in alternative media and, as veteran reporters, we think to ourselves, "Why the heck isn't anyone in the mainstream press covering that interesting (and in some cases major) story?"

Then there is the logo out front on this post, which says, "What is this?" If you read news online, you know that we are in an age in which the lines between hard news and commentary are getting thinner and thinner. Frequently, I see pieces marked "analysis" that contain far more clear attributions and sources than in "hard news" stories elsewhere. We regularly see "news" features that, a decade ago, would have been featured on op-ed pages.

Then there is the whole issue of hard-news reporters writing "objective" stories and then turning around and firing away on Twitter with edgy comments that would make an editorial-page editor blush. The goal, for many reporters, is to build an online "brand" and one way you do that is by telling readers what you really think.

Then there is that other nasty equation looming in the background during these financially troubled times in the journalism. You know the one: Opinion is cheep; information is expensive.

This brings me to a really interesting "Acts of Faith" piece at The Washington Post that ran under this headline: "Liberty University, a hub of conservative politics, owes rapid growth to federal student loans."

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On same-sex marriage, 'Amen!' to what Poynter said about covering the battles ahead — with a few quibbles

On same-sex marriage, 'Amen!' to what Poynter said about covering the battles ahead — with a few quibbles

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of same-sex marriage Friday, some media organizations couldn't resist celebrating.

Almost immediately, a Pennsylvania newspaper announced that it would no longer publish letters from those opposed to same-sex marriage — a decision that drew a backlash and prompted the paper to "further elaborate." Our own tmatt has more to say about that case.

Against such a backdrop ("Kellerism," anyone?), wouldn't it be really nice if a respected voice stepped in and preached a sermon on the need for fair, thoughtful journalism?

Enter Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute — the influential journalism think tank.

Tompkins delivered just such a message in a piece he wrote this week.

Some of what Topkins had to say:

Now that the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage has had time to sink in, journalists should wake up to the fact that a complicated and contentious debate lies ahead. Just as Brown v. The Board of Education didn’t end discrimination in schools and Roe v. Wade did not end the abortion debate,Obergefell v. Hodges will not end the opposition to same-sex marriage. The next battles may be in churches, where the Court’s decision cannot interfere. ...

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