Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives that would reaffirm the right to the freedom of conscience for all Americans.
His resolution is in response to Democratic presidential contender Beto O’Rourke’s attacks on religious freedom. Earlier this month, O’Rourke stated during a CNN Town Hall on LGBT issues that he believed religious institutions, like churches and non-profit charities, should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.
Responding to the question by CNN moderator Don Lemon, O’Rourke answered, “Yes. There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us.” This story was covered by The Daily Citizen.
In a press release announcing the resolution, Rep. Banks said, “The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ No religion, or its practitioners, can be suppressed or coerced by the state. When politicians threaten to use the power of the state to deliberately suppress some peoples because of their religious convictions, they violate the Constitution and one of America’s most sacred traditions.”
“The First Amendment states that no matter one’s beliefs, no matter how one worships – if one worships – every American citizen may enjoy the rights enshrined to them in the Constitution, given to them not by the state but by God,” Rep. Banks statement concluded.
The resolution, H.J.Res.78 is titled, “Expressing support for freedom of conscience.”
It lists four main reasons why House members should support the resolution. These include the importance of religious freedom to the settling of the 13 original colonies, the Framers of the Constitution recognizing the necessity of religion, the vital role churches play in the United States, and Congress’s own affirmation of the rights of conscience for all Americans.
It concludes by denouncing O’Rourke’s plan to strip churches and non-profits of their tax-exempt status. “Any effort by the government to condition the receipt of the protections of the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the United States, including an exemption from taxation, on the public policy positions of an organization is an affront to the spirit and letter of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
In the Senate, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) has introduced an identical resolution, S.J.Res.58.
The right to religious liberty is central to the American experiment. George Washington in his Farewell Address emphasized the vital role religion plays in our civil society.
“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government,” Washington wrote.
The importance of religion to the well-being and happiness of a society can be found throughout the writings of the Founders. The reason religious freedom is important is precisely because no society can thrive for long without a people who are restrained by the moral guidelines religion provides.
Faith is essential to a free and thriving country, and no organization should have their tax-exempt status threatened because they disagree with the government’s definition of marriage. Rep. Jim Banks deserves praise for standing tall for the religious freedom of all Americans.
The Daily Citizen’s legal analyst Bruce Hausknecht wrote an article detailing why churches and non-profits are granted tax-exempt status. You can find his article here.
You can reach this author on Twitter @MettlerZachary