• Warren, Buttigieg Say They’re Not on Board with Beto’s Anti-Church Proposal

    Surge Summary: Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has vowed to strip the tax-exempt status from churches that won’t perform homosexual marriages. That’s apparently a bridge too far for a few of his party rivals, who have declined to join him in advocating that policy.

    When a proposal from a fellow Lefty is too radical for Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg? You know it’s an idea which is really going over the lunatic cliff.

    Over at the Associated Press, Elana Schor reports …

    According to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, unlike Beto O’Rourke, if she’s elected president, the Massachusetts Democrat would not seek to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches or other religious entities that refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

    Asked to respond to former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s assertion last week that religious institutions should face the loss of their tax exemption for opposing same-sex marriage, Warren campaign spokeswoman Saloni Sharma said that “Elizabeth will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community” to help stamp out “fear of discrimination and violence.” But she declined to take aim at the tax status of religious organizations that don’t support same-sex marriage.

    “Religious institutions in America have long been free to determine their own beliefs and practices, and she does not think we should require them to conduct same-sex marriages in order to maintain their tax-exempt status,” Sharma said by email.

    As would be expected, President Donald Trump joined a conservative outcry against Beto’s suggestion, tagging it a threat to religious freedom. He demeaned O’Rourke as a “wacko” during Saturday remarks to the conservative Values Voter Summit, likely hoping the incendiary issue will alienate voters of faith from the Democratic Party.

    Warren, meantime, is not the only Democratic White House hopeful to pull away from O’Rourke’s suggestion.

    Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., told CNN on Sunday that “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.”

    Last week, at a CNN presented town hall on LGBTQ issues, O’Rourke did not hesitate to respond “yes” when asked if opposition to same-sex marriage should imperil religious institutions’ tax exemption. That tax-break has been a longstanding fixture of U.S. tax law.

    His campaign manager sought to clarify that position on Sunday, stating that O’Rourke would not threaten the tax status of churches that decline to perform same-sex marriages.

    A religious entity that “discriminates based on sexual orientation or gender identity when delivering public services” should not be tax exempt, but O’Rourke would not try to revoke the tax status of “a church that declines to marry a same sex couple,” campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon tweeted .

    However, perhaps too little, too late — O’Rourke’s initial bold pronouncement had already ignited spirited blowback from prominent Republicans and other conservatives. O’Rourke’s assertion gave every indication Democrats would seek to punish religious organizations that share their passion for all thing same-sex-marriage.

    Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott tweeted on Friday that O’Rourke “is the most honest Democrat running for President — he admits they want to shut down churches if they don’t adhere to his beliefs.” Mississippi GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith weighed in on Saturday, tweeting that “Democrats’ unconstitutional attacks against our religious liberties must be stopped.”

    Trump, after slamming O’Rourke on Saturday without using his name, told religious conservatives that “I will never allow the IRS to be used as a political weapon.” The president also has repeatedly touted his efforts to ease enforcement of a decades-old provision of federal tax law known as the Johnson Amendment that bars tax-exempt organizations such as houses of worship from engaging in political campaigns.

    Previous to O’Rourke’s controversial townhall comment, yet another Democratic presidential rival sidestepped the idea.

    “I’m not saying, because I know this is a long legal battle,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker told CNN when asked the same question O’Rourke fielded, earlier in the televised town hall.

    Of course, it would have been a lot better if Booker had simply said: No, that’s an awful proposal. The government shouldn’t be instructing churches in what they have to believe.

    H/T: Associated Press/ Elana Schor

    Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren; adapted from: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Elizabeth Warren, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81731848

    Image: Pete Buttigieg; Edward Kimmel from Takoma Park, MD – DNC Winter Meet 0069 Howard Dean + Pete Buttigieg, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76045707

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