Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke knows just what to do if a church opposes same-sex marriage. Take away its tax exempt status. He made that proposal at last week's MSNBC town hall on LGBT issues, to a cheering crowd.
Video: With a tee-up from CNN's Don Lemon, Beto O'Rourke says to cheers and applause that he will target churches and any organization that doesn't fully accept the LGBTQ agenda receives "reward, no benefit, no tax break," and loses their tax-exempt status #EqualityTownHall pic.twitter.com/WQ9J0BFzsZ— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) October 11, 2019
"There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for any one, or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights, and the full civil rights of every single one of us," O'Rourke declared, pledging to make it a presidential priority.
The plan is, as you guessed, unconstitutional.
"A long line of court opinions has made clear that 1) 'tax exemptions can’t be denied based on the viewpoint that a group communicates.'" "Support," the term used in the question, = viewpoint. /2 #CatoSCOTUS https://t.co/H7esvWNPbv— Walter Olson (@walterolson) October 11, 2019
O'Rourke's CNN audience may have liked what they heard, but many, many others were both stunned and horrified by O'Rourke's agenda. Even O'Rourke's fellow Democratic candidate, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is gay, said, Wait a minute. This may be going too far.
"I'm not sure he understood the implications of what he was saying," Buttigieg said of O'Rourke. "That would mean going to war not only with churches, but with mosques and a lot of orgs that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do."
Buttigieg reminded his opponent about the separation of church and state, which acknowledges churches and other religious organizations as nonprofits in the U.S.
Taxing these institutions, Buttigieg predicted, would "deepen the divisions that we're already experiencing."
Instead, the mayor suggested enforcing a blanket anti-discrimination law.
O'Rourke had the chance to clarify his position (or change it altogether) during this round of weekend news shows. But he stood his ground and even confirmed to CNN that his plan would target mosques, Islamic organizations, conservative black churches, and religious HBCUs.
What happens within the walls of these churches and organizations is not the government's business, O'Rourke explained. But, "when you are providing services in the public sphere...and you discriminate...then we have a problem."