One week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States found in Obergefell v. Hodges that all Americans have a right to same-sex marriage. This decision creates some open questions about what that means for the future of religious liberty in the United States.
For instance, might some religious institutions lose their tax-exempt status granted by the Internal Revenue Service if they continue to hold traditional views regarding marriage?
State Rep. Bob Ballinger told The Arkansas Project:
We are going to do everything we can to try to find a way to protect our citizens as much as that’s possible to do. We’ll continue doing that.
At this point we don’t have anything lined out, so what we’re doing is we’re getting together and looking at options. We know there is a need, and we’re trying to find what legislative solutions there are to fix that. One of the things that we can do is clarify specific things that are not going to happen in Arkansas — like, preachers are not going to be forced to perform services. They’re protected from doing so. I do believe the RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) we passed would already provide that protection, and I don’t believe the Supreme Court decision directly requires that at this point, but at the same time it seems like we’re heading down a slippery slope — so that’s something that can be done.
Relatedly, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge yesterday “sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to take steps to protect the tax-exempt status of nonprofit religious organizations.”
Rutledge, along with attorneys general from several other states, issued a statement:
The letter says stripping the tax-exempt status of religious organizations would be “an unprecedented assertion of governmental power over religious exercise.”
“To allow the IRS to proceed in this way would suggest that the IRS has the power to target disfavored beliefs in any religious organization, to effectively decide the truth or correctness of a religious belief, and to penalize as a matter of ‘policy’ a mainstream belief held by groups that long have received tax-exempt status,” the attorneys general wrote.
Threats to the tax-exempt status of religious organizations are a credible concern at this point. Meanwhile, a Montana citizen said this week “he was inspired by last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage to apply for a marriage license so that he can legally wed his second wife.”
I think I’m going to need some more beer as I watch America rush down this slippery slope. Have a happy Fourth of July weekend!