Sen. Mike Lee to presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke: ‘Take it back’

By Dennis Romboy, KSL | Posted - Oct. 14, 2019 at 2:33 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee wants Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke to take back what he said about religious freedom.

At CNN’s LGBTQ forum last week, the former Texas congressman was asked if colleges, churches and charities should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. O’Rourke quickly replied “yes.”

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for any institution or organization in America that denies the full human rights and full civil rights of every single one of us,” he said.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it should not be used to discriminate,” O’Rourke said. “So as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans,” he said.

Lee took issue with O’Rourke’s stance on social media over the weekend.

“Every candidate seeking political office in America should be asked whether they agree with this statement. We don’t want a government that punishes disfavored religious beliefs. Beto, take it back!,” the Utah Republican tweeted.

Lee wrote that it’s “dangerous” to argue for the revocation of tax-exempt status for churches based on specific, disfavored beliefs.

“In Beto O’Rourke’s America, who will decide which disfavored religious beliefs will prompt retaliation by government? What rights are being infringed by churches that don’t adopt Beto’s religious beliefs?” Lee tweeted.

Lee belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which believes marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God.

The church does not allow leaders to use their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, or its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions or other activities associated with same-sex marriages.

The church also owns Brigham Young University, a private institution with campuses in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii.

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg criticized O’Rourke’s proposal to strip churches of their tax-exempt status if they don’t support same-sex marriage Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor said he agrees that anti-discrimination law ought to be applied to all institutions, but he’s not sure O’Rourke understands the implications of what he’s saying.

“That means going to war, not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do,” said Buttigieg.

Schools or other organization should not be able to discriminate, he said.

“But going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers or other religious facilities in this country, I think that is just going to deepen the divisions that we’re experiencing at a moment when we’re seeing more and more people motivated often by compassion and by people they love moving in the right direction on LGBTQ rights,” said Buttigieg, who is openly gay.

Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign says she would not seek to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches or other religious entities that decline to perform same-sex marriages

”Religious institutions in America have long been free to determine their own beliefs and practices, and (Warren) does not think we should require them to conduct same-sex marriages in order to maintain their tax-exempt status,” campaign spokeswoman Saloni Sharma said when asked about O’Rourke’s remarks.

Lee said O’Rourke’s proposal should “deeply” bother Republicans and Democrats alike.

“We don’t want a government that punishes disfavored religious beliefs,” Lee tweeted. “Beto — everyone’s entitled to a mulligan now and then. Please take one here.”

Dennis Romboy

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