Senate Republicans Demagogue Marriage Equality

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and several other Senate Republicans are sponsoring an absolutely pointless bill to create the ridiculous fear that the federal government might take away a church’s tax exemption of they don’t perform same-sex marriages.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would prevent the Obama administration from pressuring churches into recognizing gay marriage.

“It is concerning that we have people in this administration who think that religious liberties are just not that big of a deal,” Lee said in an interview with the Washington Examiner Tuesday.

Despite President Obama’s recent promise to respect religious freedom, Lee worries the White House may try to work around that promise by revoking the tax-exempt status of churches that recognize traditional marriage.

“We need not just statements, but we need legislation to protect religious liberty from this kind of potential threat,” he said in the interview.

You mean legislation like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which already guarantees this? RFRA isn’t even needed because we have two centuries of judicial precedent establishing the ministerial exception and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which absolutely forbid such actions by the federal government. There almost certainly isn’t a single federal judge on the bench that would rule to the contrary. Indeed, Lee admits that no one actually thinks that should be done:

“Nearly every member of Congress on both ends of the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle, will at least purport to be a strong supporter of religious liberty, and this should be an uncontroversial position to take,” Lee said. “I don’t think anyone believes that the federal government ought to be making religious doctrinal decisions on behalf of churches and other religious institutions.”

He’s right, no one believes that. Even the most radical gay rights advocate does not think that churches should be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Every single state that has recognized such marriages has explicitly exempted churches, as they are exempt from all anti-discrimination laws (the government can’t even prevent a church from refusing to perform an interracial marriage, much less a same-sex one). Which means what Lee is doing here is demagoguery, trying to make people afraid that something that is virtually inconceivable, that no one even wants to happen, is going to happen unless you support him.

But this is my favorite part:

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) explained the thinking behind the bill: “Religious freedom is a foundational principle to our great nation, and it’s something that Louisianians and folks across the country cherish — including the millions of Americans, like myself, who support traditional marriage.”

Yeah, David Vitter supports traditional marriage: One man, one woman, several hookers and an industrial-sized bag of diapers.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • D. C. Sessions

    Weren’t these people the same ones who were demanding that every law cite its Constitutional basis and necessity?

  • John Pieret

    Once again, focused like a laser on the economy and creating jobs!

  • Chiroptera

    What tax exemptions do church’s have that similar allegedly non-profit organizations don’t have? Whatever they are, I don’t think they should have those kinds tax breaks to begin with. And whatever legitimate tax breaks are left, that really should be contingent on obeying the same laws that other similar allegedly non-profit organizations are forced to follow.

    If they break the law, they should lose their tax benefits.

    I don’t feel that it’s an entanglement of state with religion to treat religious organizations exactly the same as similar secular organizations. In fact, it’s just the opposite — deciding which organizations are legitimately “religious” does provide entangle state with religion.

    That’s my opinion, anyway.

  • Sastra

    Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would prevent the Obama administration from pressuring churches into recognizing gay marriage.

    I think every such bill should carry along a provision to the effect that in return the government should not allow churches to execute gay couples. Make this issue prominent, as if it’s a live threat.

    Yep. It’s unnecessary for multiple reasons. But — religious liberty! Better safe than sorry, I’m sure.

  • notruescott

    Lee is likely just parroting the concerns of the mormon church–they’ve gotten their magic panties in a twist about possible loss of tax exempt status and/or being forced to allow gay marriage in their temples.

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and several other Senate Republicans are sponsoring an absolutely pointless bill to create the ridiculous fear that the federal government might take away a church’s tax exemption of they don’t perform same-sex marriages.

    […]

    . . . legislation like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which already guarantees this[.]

    […]

    . . . we have two centuries of judicial precedent establishing the ministerial exception and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which absolutely forbid such actions by the federal government. There almost certainly isn’t a single federal judge on the bench that would rule to the contrary.

    I don’t think this is a “ridiculous fear” by conservative Chistians but instead a quite valid concern.

    Yes statutory law and current precedent protects conservative Christians discriminating against gay people and their children. However, we continue to enjoy moral progress. At some point I think such discrimination will eventually be looked upon in sufficient enough contempt to motivate legislation ending subsidies for such churches. Freedom of association will continue to be protected, but not with tax subsidies to those who promote misogyny, racism, and bigotry and discrimination against gays and their families.

    I also think the Constitution doesn’t need to be amended to end the exemption of churches who discriminate against gays and their children; especially when read in the context of the Declaration of Independence. That precedence on this is wrong because it favors religious freedom to the point it infringes upon I see are the superior rights of those discriminated against; what the courts inappropriately call the interests of the state. I also think such subsidies violates the establishment clause; I admit this comes from my being a strict separationist.

    Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)

    It is concerning that we have people in this administration who think that religious liberties are just not that big of a deal[.]

    What a liar. This is a legitimate issue, but it’s not about religious freedom. Instead it’s about the Constitutionality, wisdom, and morality of government financially subsidizing groups who hate and discriminate against others. Such subsidies are both bad policy and I think unconstitutional.

    Sen. Mike Lee:

    I don’t think anyone believes that the federal government ought to be making religious doctrinal decisions on behalf of churches and other religious institutions.

    OK, so if churches want to kill the first-born of their members, it’s wrong for the government to stop subsidies to such churches, along with arresting the murderers? I don’t think I’m taking this analogy to an illogical extreme. The point is, the government does allow free exercise, but the government also has obligations to protect the competing rights of others. That’s obviously true of my ‘first-born’ analogy and also true on this issue. At a minimum, the government currently subsidizes conservative Christian churches abusing the gay children of congregants in churches that hate on gays, of which there are legion.

    Let’s not forget the percentage of gay children in this country, and that this share of children has their conservative Christian parents also assuring these kids attend churches that promote hatred, bigotry, and dehumanizing them.

    Ed writes:

    Even the most radical gay rights advocate does not think that churches should be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Every single state that has recognized such marriages has explicitly exempted churches, as they are exempt from all anti-discrimination laws (the government can’t even prevent a church from refusing to perform an interracial marriage, much less a same-sex one).

    This misses the core legitimate concern. Instead the logical threat here is that these churches will eventually risk losing their tax exemptions if they continue to discriminate gays and their children.

    Ed writes:

    Which means what Lee is doing here is demagoguery, trying to make people afraid that something that is virtually inconceivable, that no one even wants to happen, is going to happen unless you support him.

    It’s demagoguery for Sen. Lee to make this about religious freedom. But it’s not demagoguery for conservative Christians to seek additional statutory protections to protect conservative Christian churches’ tax exemption status.

    The irony here is that for conservative Christians to make an honest argument advocating they keep their tax exemptions, they’d have to concede they want such exemptions in spite of the fact they want to continue to discriminate against gay adults and continue to abuse gay children who are congregants in these churches. Thus we see their making a false argument this is all about religious freedom.

    I also find it disingenuous for equality supporters to predominately focus on the non-existent threat of forcing these churches to perform same-sex marriages while mostly ignoring what I think is a new and emergent threat to end bigoted churches’ tax exemptions. It may take decades, but I think this end game conclusion is inevitable. I hope I’m alive when it happens.

  • Michael Heath

    Sastra @ 4:

    I think every such bill should carry along a provision to the effect that in return the government should not allow churches to execute gay couples. Make this issue prominent, as if it’s a live threat.

    Awesome response if the bill is only to protect churches from not being forced to perform same-sex marriages. However I hope no legislator votes for a bill that continues to exempt churches from taxes in order to protect church policies that are misogynistic, racist, or bigoted towards gays and their families.

  • asonge

    Test

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    Of course, this bill isn’t actually meant to protect churches. It’s designed to remind the base that their White House is occupied by an Evil Atheist Muslim who plans on imposing gay Shariah Law on Real Americans (TM)

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Lee worries the White House may try to work around that promise by revoking the tax-exempt status of churches that recognize traditional marriage.

    Weird. I thought the churches that recognized gay marriage also recognized “traditional marriage”. Apparently it’s one or the other.

  • raven

    Mike Lee and the Tea Party are fixing an imaginary and nonexistent problem.

    Meanwhile, we do have real problems. They aren’t fixing them.

    They are making them worse and creating more problems. Which makes sense. Thanks to the Bush Disaster, they created enough for the enire next generation of Americans.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Weird. I thought the churches that recognized gay marriage also recognized “traditional marriage”. Apparently it’s one or the other.

    That’s going to come as a serious shock to my daughter and her husband, given that the officiant at their wedding is himself gay (well, so was her Knave of Honor) and married.

  • jnorris

    I would amend the bill to prevent the government from forcing churches to preform mixed-race weddings too. Can’t be too careful.

  • Johnny Vector

    Ed, you call the bill “pointless”; it’s far from it. It would actually have real effects, all of them bad.

    It is not about tax exemptions, and it’s not about churches. It prohibits “any adverse action” against any person, corporation, or entity, for anything they do based on their bigotry against gays or premarital sex. Oh yeah, they didn’t mention that part on the Blaze, did they?

    Now maybe “any adverse action” is some bizarre term of law that I don’t understand, but to me that means this law would prohibit, for example, firing a city clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Nor would it be legal to fire a pharmacist who demanded to see your marriage certificate before filling a script for birth control pills.

    Here’s the summary from beta.congress.gov:

    Marriage and Religious Freedom Act – Prohibits the federal government from taking an adverse action against a person on the basis that: (1) such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.

    Defines “adverse action” as any federal government action to discriminate against such person, including: (1) denying or revoking certain tax exemptions or disallowing a deduction of any charitable contribution made to or by such person; (2) denying or excluding such person from receiving any federal grant, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, license, certification, accreditation, employment, or similar position or status; or (3) denying or withholding any benefit under a federal benefit program.

    Permits a person to assert an actual or threatened violation of this Act as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and to obtain compensatory damages or other appropriate relief against the federal government.

    Authorizes the Attorney General (DOJ) to bring actions to enforce this Act.

    Specifies that the term “person” includes any person regardless of religious affiliation, as well as corporations and other entities regardless of for-profit or nonprofit status.

  • http://www.themindisaterriblething.com shripathikamath

    Unless the Democrats cave to non-existent pressure, this should simply die in Lee’s skull.

    His proposal is only to ensure that tax-free status can be retained by churches even if they violate someone else’s freedoms or rights

  • Chiroptera

    Johnny Vector, #13:

    It may be that this bill would have broader effects than Ed’s OP provides. But I don’t think quite as broad as you may think.

    The summary you provide says: Prohibits the federal government from taking an adverse action….

    The your fear that … that means this law would prohibit, for example, firing a city clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples isn’t justified since marriage licenses are a state matter and the hiring and firing of city or county clerks are a state matter.

    Also, Nor would it be legal to fire a pharmacist who demanded to see your marriage certificate before filling a script for birth control pills. Most professional licensing is also done at the state level, and most pharmacists are employed in the private sector, where it is state law that regulates and presumably would regulate this kind of behavior, although I may be wrong about this point.

  • Johnny Vector

    Chiropera:

    Hmm, that does limit it a bit. But there are still plenty of federal issues. This would seem to free up IRS agents to refuse to process joint returns from same-sex couples, without fear of repercussions. Or agencies getting federal funds, which are currently not allowed to discriminate, would be free to do as they please with no threat of getting their funding cut off.

    And of course if this were to pass, every republican-controlled state legislature will immediately photocopy the bill, cross out the word “federal”, write in “state” in crayon, and bring it to the floor.

  • Michael Heath

    Johnny Vector writes:

    [Sen. Lee’s proposed bill] is not about tax exemptions

    Your source makes it clear this bill is most certainly about tax exemptions. I quote:

    Defines “adverse action” as any federal government action to discriminate against such person, including: (1) denying or revoking certain tax exemptions or disallowing a deduction of any charitable contribution made to or by such person . . .

    I understand you want to point out the bill has other objectionable elements, but the subsidies churches enjoy are enormous when it comes to the financial viability of these organizations. Especially those who discriminate against women and gays, i.e., conservative Christian denominations.

    Considering or actually removing such exemptions would also result in enormous societal implications. I don’t think we’re ready for consideration in terms of optimizing benefit and the national interest; perhaps in a generation or two. However, that’s easy for me say because I’m not a gay kid being abusively raised in a fundie environment; so I love to see a debate started now rather than reflexively hiding in Ed’s perspective.

    The argument against my position is that we should wait for such a debate to start only after gay people’s right to marry is protected at the federal level against all state encroachment efforts. Either way this debate will happen some day, in spite of the fact it hasn’t when it comes to conservative Christian churches discriminating against females.

  • whheydt

    I would suggest that Sen. Lee is going to have a few more pressing considerations closer to home in light of this decision: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/14/21903224-federal-judge-strikes-down-key-parts-of-utahs-polygamy-law-in-sister-wives-ruling?lite

  • gshelley

    Since Loving v Virginia, have any pastors or churches been criminally charged for refusing to carry out mixed race marriages? Have any of them lost tax exemption for doing so?

  • raven

    would suggest that Sen. Lee is going to have a few more pressing considerations closer to home in light of this decision: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013 /12/14/21903224-federal-judge-strikes-down-key-parts-of -utahs-polygamy-law-in-sister-wives-ruling?lite

    Prpbably not that much.

    They really weren’t enforcing it anyway.

    Warren Jeffs wasn’t convicted in Utah, where he lived most of his life. But in Texas. Utah, at best, just ignores the polygamists of which there are an estimated 60,000.

    Odd factoid, how does some guy with a maybe a high school degree support 10 wives and maybe 50 children? He doesn’t. You, the taxpayer does!!! A few decades ago, Utah did a study of Hildale, Utah, where the FLDS is based. 90% of the population was on welfare.

    They hit the roof and told the FLDS that they weren’t going to keep doing that. It’s still around 50% though.

  • Drolfe

    Specifies that the term “person” includes any person regardless of religious affiliation, as well as corporations and other entities regardless of for-profit or nonprofit status.

    Talk about buring the lede. This is a Hobby Lobby-“corporations are people, my friend”-bill. This way contractors to the government (in say defense, infrastructure, medicaid) can get away with religious discrimination where it would otherwise be grounds for ‘adverse action’. They have to make sure Obama can’t punish companies for their “religious reasons” not to uphold women’s health insurance, etc.

    It’s also a way for them to exercise more religious-right power over their fiefdom in D.C. where congress is free to abuse the inhabitants any way they wish. (Especially gay people and women.)

    Seems to me this is still a part of their ‘deny Obamacare at any cost’ agenda and not just ‘religious freedom’ or ‘defense of marriage’.

  • Drolfe

    Damnit, typos! Burying!

    But still, these seems like a way to give a pass to asshole companies that work for the government or operate in DC.

  • eamick

    Weren’t these people the same ones who were demanding that every law cite its Constitutional basis and necessity?

    Basis, yes; necessity, not really. As you’d expect, a lot of these “Constitutional authority statements” are farcically broad; it’s not too difficult to find bills that cite Article I as the authority. They couldn’t be bothered to narrow the scope even a little.

  • eric

    I agree with Heath @6 that they have a (smidgen of) a legitimate concern, though my reasoning is slightly different from Michael’s. Basically, I think a church that begins to offer marriage ceremonies as a business might already (and definitely should) be legally required to follow business non-discrimination laws. Its fine if Church of Sect A only marries people of Sect A in their building. But if they start renting out their building to Sects B-Y for B-Y marriage ceremonies, and the pastor starts offering to perform B-Y services for money, then they shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against Sect Z.

    To put this in more concrete terms, as long as a Missouri Synod Lutheran church only allows Missouri Synod Lutheran marriages on its property (which would discriminate against gays), their discrimination is legal. But if they start renting out their church for baptist marriages, catholic marriages, etc… then they should not be allowed to discriminate against gays. By renting out their property to other sects, they’ve basically told the world that they are okay with people with whom they religiously disagree using their building to get married, for a fee. And once you open that door, you can’t decide which customers you religiously disagree with get to rent your building, and which customers don’t.

  • Wylann

    Do churches have the right to not recognize (or, I think more accurately, not perform) mixed race marriages? I realize it would get a lot of blowback, but I suspect there are still places where this would be perfectly acceptable, as long as it doesn’t make national headlines.

    Sure, everyone is going to think they are racist fuckwits, but that’s just accurate. Same goes for this topic, I think.

  • Abby Normal

    Do churches have the right to not recognize (or, I think more accurately, not perform) mixed race marriages?

    In the US churches are not required to perform or recognize interracial marriages, or any other marriages for that matter. Other common examples of marriage types some churches refuse to perform, without penalty, include second marriages for divorcees and interfaith marriages. A minister could even refuse to marry two people he or she thought weren’t right for each other.

  • Abby Normal

    I should also mention that Eric @24 accurately depicts current law as I understand it (IANAL). If a church rents out space to the public it must do so in accordance with non-discrimination laws. I know of at least one church in NJ that lost tax exempt status on one of its ancillary properties for that very reason.