Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 12, 2017, during the committee’s confirmation hearing for FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Beto O’Rourke’s flagrantly unconstitutional remarks on the tax-exempt status of churches and religious groups has stirred up a lot of outrage, particularly for those who know exactly what would happen when you give the government the power to weaponize the tax system against organized religion.
Beto O’Rourke on religious institutions losing tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage: "There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone … that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us" #EqualityTownHall pic.twitter.com/tjwVGqv5h0
— CNN (@CNN) October 11, 2019
It is a very clear violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees that the United State government cannot interfere in the practices of religion, either by establishing a state religion or by restricting the exercise of its beliefs. But, that doesn’t matter to O’Rourke, who is insistent upon taking the most extreme positions of the social justice movement and making them the pillars of his campaign in order to stay relevant.
That he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the nomination means nothing. His ideas are dangerous if left unchecked. One of the voices decrying O’Rourke’s statement is Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse.
“Last night, Beto O’Rourke said that churches, hospitals, and charities — folks who are serving their communities and loving their neighbors — should lose their tax-exempt status if their religious convictions don’t fall in line with his progressive politics,” Sasses said in a statement. “This extreme intolerance is un-American. The whole point of the First Amendment is that, no matter who you love and where you worship, everyone is created with dignity and we don’t use government power to decide which religious beliefs are legitimate and which aren’t.
“This bigoted nonsense would target a lot of sincere Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Leaders from both political parties have a duty to flatly condemn this attack on very basic American freedoms,” he added.
And he’s not wrong. The reason the Bill Of Rights is so vital is because it validates the basic rights of Americans by telling the government what it can’t do. When you strip away the government’s inability to levy taxes on religious institutions, you are opening those institutions up to abuse by a weaponized tax system, allowing the government to decide what beliefs are legitimate and what beliefs aren’t.
That’s dangerous, and this isn’t just a “here’s an anti-Christian policy!” argument. If you took a far-right, supremely anti-Muslim Republican administration and gave them the power to tax mosques and Islamic organizations, and that power got abused, O’Rourke and the rest of the very woke Left would be calling for that administration to be impeached en masse. When you give one side the ability to do it, you are asking the other side to step up its game.
That is a big, big problem, and Sasse realizes that. Too bad O’Rourke doesn’t.