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Beto Vs. Religious Liberty

Overton Window has moved: Democratic presidential candidate vows to use tax code to punish dissenting churches

I missed the CNN Townhall among Democratic candidates last night, focusing on LGBT issues. It went well, apparently:



Liberals will say, “Don’t worry about it. Beto is scraping the bottom of the polls. What he says doesn’t really matter.” Huh. Don’t you believe it. If this belief isn’t already held by all the Democratic candidates now, it will be. As Brandon McGinley says, there really is no principled reason to resist it, given what the Democrats already believe about the sanctity of homosexuality and transgenderism. Haven’t we all lived long enough now to recognize that the Law of Merited Impossibility — “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it” — is as irrefutable as the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

It appears that CNN’s Chris Cuomo is abasing himself this morning for an unintentional blasphemy:


Burn the cishet patriarch, and savor the sweet incense of combusting whiteness!

Even at this late date, we hear from many liberals that orthodox Christians are “obsessed” with homosexuality. They can’t grasp why, aside from bigotry, that we are so concerned about the issue. It’s largely because the march of LGBT ideology to conquer our culture tramples over the rights of orthodox/traditionalist religious people, and indeed of anybody who objects to whatever claim LGBTs make.

It’s not just Christians. A reader this morning sent this:

Not sure how plugged-in you are to tech world, but Stack Exchange, a giant Q&A resource for programmers, has just implemented a new policy on the use of preferred gender pronouns for its members:


Notice especially items 9 and 11:

Q9: Do I have to use pronouns I’m unfamiliar or uncomfortable with (e.g., neopronouns like xe, zir, ne… )?

Yes, if those are stated by the individual.

Q11: If I’m uncomfortable with a particular pronoun, can I just avoid using it?

We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. Explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns because you are uncomfortable is a way of refusing to recognize their identity and is a violation of the Code of Conduct.

Active affirmation is thus now a requirement to participate on Stack Exchange. This article has a score of -370, indicating general discontent, but that probably doesn’t mean much — programmers are an ornery bunch under the best of circumstances.

You cannot simply be tolerant. You must affirm, or you, as a programmer, cannot participate on a key resource for your profession. Whatever crazy thing genderqueer programmers demand to be called, you must do it. There is no option. You cannot even use their given name as a way to avoid the bizarre pronoun. The programmers — programmers! — will be policing language closely.

You may not be a Christian, or any kind of religious believer, but if you don’t see the transgender movement as a threat to your job and livelihood, you have your head in the sand.

What Beto O’Rourke said last night is a perfect example of why many orthodox Christians who despise Donald Trump will vote for him anyway. The survival of our institutions depends on keeping the Democrats out of the White House (and Congress) for as long as we can. Commenting on Beto’s remark, Denny Burk is a theologian and a pastor. He points out what’s at stake:

Christian readers, take this seriously! You may reckon, in the end, that Trump is such a danger that getting rid of him is a more important task than protecting religious liberty. If that is what you believe, then make that conclusion with clear eyes about what you are opening the door to for traditional churches and religious institutions.

By the way, I don’t think Denny Burk is right about this being unconstitutional. I believe that a Democratic president could take away the tax-exempt status from “bigot” churches and religious institutions by executive order. The Supreme Court in 1983 ruled that the IRS has the right to remove tax-exempt status from a religious institution to achieve public policy goals. Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status because of its racially discriminatory policy forbidding white and black students from dating. The fundamentalist school believed that interracial dating was unbiblical. For that, the IRS wanted to take away its tax-exempt status — and SCOTUS upheld it. The Court ruled that Bob Jones University could maintain its own policies, but it did not have the right to hold tax-exempt status.

(By the way, BJU dropped its discriminatory policy in 2000, and regained its nonprofit tax status in 2017.)

There is no reason that the IRS in a Democratic administration could not do that to churches and religious institutions that discriminated against LGBTs. No reason. It’s entirely a matter of executive will.

The trans movement has captured the Democratic Party. The gay journalist Andy Ngo draws attention to the lies and general derangement of these activists, drawing on last night’s CNN Townhall:



We all need to understand that these people are driving the Democratic Party. You watch: not a single Democratic candidate will ever tell these activists no. They own the media too; see how quickly Chris Cuomo denounced himself for making a petty, lame joke.

To be clear, we don’t know how all the Democrat candidates would come down on removing tax-exempt status from dissenting churches and religious organizations. They must be asked, and asked again until we get a clear answer. Personally, though, I have no doubt at all that every single one of them would do this if they thought it wouldn’t cost them too much politically. Christians need to understand that as America secularizes, and as those who still call themselves Christian accept anti-biblical views on LGBT, it will increasingly become possible for a future president to impose this punishment on churches and religious organizations without paying a significant political price.

Only a couple of years ago, I was talking to a religious liberty lawyer about tax exemption and the LGBT movement. He told me that yes, it’s a looming challenge, but it wouldn’t be a clear and present danger for many years to come, in his reckoning. Well, on October 10, 2019, a Democratic presidential candidate stood on live national television and said, without any ambiguity, that he would do this as a matter of justice — and the audience cheered.

“The Overton Window shifted last night,” an Evangelical theologian friend texted. He’s right. Signs of the times, people. Signs of the times.

This morning I’m at the Touchstone conference on the Benedict Option this morning. Speaker John Yocum mentioned in his speech this morning Father Alexander Men, a brave Russian Orthodox priest, murdered in 1990, who preached Christ amid the persecution of the Soviet Union. Yocum said that Father Alexander organized small groups of believers — cells was the word Yocum used — to strengthen the Church under persecution. I had not realized that about Father Alexander. When I am in Russia in a few weeks, I think I will be meeting with one of Father Alexander’s disciples. I will want to know more about this.

I bring this up in connection with the Ben Op to highlight the fact that the Ben Op is something we have to do now not only to strengthen our faith in this dechristianizing (and increasingly anti-Christian) culture, but also to prepare ourselves for holding the believing community together as hardship increases. The day is likely to come when faithful churches, religious schools, and other religious institutions, lose their tax exempt status over their fidelity to the Bible’s teachings. For many churches, this is going to mean losing their buildings. That will be a blow. We need to get ready for it — and we need to do what we can to reduce our exposure.

Here’s what I mean: some people will say to me, “What are you going to do when the state won’t let you have your Benedict Option schools, huh?!” As if persecution by the state would negate the Ben Op! In fact, we will need the Ben Op more than ever under persecution! In my book, I highlight what the Benda family did to build and hold together community under Czech communist persecution. This year, I’ve learned about what the Jesuit Father Tomislav Kolakovic did in the 1940s to prepare Catholics in Slovakia for the coming Communist persecution. At the core of it was building intense small fellowships — cells — of believers who trained spiritually and otherwise for resilience under persecution. After the mention of the Orthodox Father Alexander Men’s leadership in Soviet Russia, I want to know more about him.

Readers, something is coming. As Denny Burk said, one of the two political parties in the US is arraying itself against churches that remain faithful to the Bible’s sexual teaching. And, we should not expect that the other party will always defend us.


UPDATE: Reader James comments:

You forgot the 9-year-old transgender ‘boy’ CNN had on to ask a question of Elizabeth Warren—she and the audience all applauded the ‘boy’ while his mother stood next to him beaming over their affirmation of her child abuse.

What a grotesque sight. Honestly, I am SO SICK of Trump and his arrogance, corruption, ignorance, bombast, recklessness, pigheadedness, etc. But then I saw all the perversion of morality and sanity on the stage last night, and I was reminded why I have to hold my nose and vote for Trump in 2020. Nice job, Dems! You are SHAMEFUL.



UPDATE.3: Readers have pointed out that the Bob Jones decision applied not to churches, but to religious schools. So churches would likely have a legal defense if a Democratic administration tried this. But the whole issue is very fluid. For example, the Obama administration expanded Title IX to cover LGBT; some Christian colleges applied for an exemption, but not all, and some gay activists pushed hard for no religious exemptions. The Trump administration rescinded that rule. Nobody believes that this issue is settled.

Keep in mind too that O’Rourke was not simply talking about churches. He was talking about religious colleges and charities also.

I hope in the days to come, journalists pin down the other Democratic presidential candidates to get them on the record about whether they agree with O’Rourke on this — and if not, why not.

In other town hall news, watch this answer from Elizabeth Warren:


Ha ha, that’s funny. But notice that she did not answer the question. She just mocked the religious belief of the hypothetical questioner, and implied that the reason someone would believe that is because they are a weirdo who can’t find a mate.

The contempt this woman has for traditional Christians could hardly be more clear. Last night’s Town Hall was a clarifying moment, like the Kavanaugh hearings and the Covington Catholic spectacle. They really do despise us, these leading figures on the Left.

UPDATE.4: Walter Olson has pointed out recently (and again on Twitter today) that it is clearly unconstitutional for the federal government to use the tax code to punish religious organizations for their mere beliefs. Understood. But acting on those beliefs is a different matter. So, if a religious university were to have and enforce a policy that forbade same-sex coupling or transgenders, it is conceivable that that institution’s tax exempt status would be at risk if a future administration played hardball with policy.

For religious believers, there is no neat, clean separation between what they believe and how they behave in the world. To the Democratic mind — and we’ve heard this from a number of prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton when she was running for president — religious liberty should refer solely to freedom of worship. That is an extremely narrow definition of religious liberty, however, one that most religiously active people would have a hard time affirming.

Anyway, Beto O’Rourke is not going to be president, but he spoke aloud something that I am sure most, and probably all, of the Democratic candidates believe. The hostility of the Democratic Party to traditional religious believers is so intense that you’d have to be absurdly naive not to wonder how widespread Beto’s convictions are among the roster of candidates. Beto’s response last night, and Elizabeth Warren’s, betrays deep hostility to any religious vision that contradicts au courant liberalism, circa 2019. They don’t even understand why this would be an issue.



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