Sen. Lee: Churches Should Not Be Forced to Perform Gay Marriages
Sen. Mike Lee says a bill he introduced would prevent the Internal Revenue Service from denying tax-exempt status to any person or group that refuses to perform gay marriages.
"What we're talking about here is the freedom of religious belief, the freedom of a church, for example, to adhere to its own religious doctrine so that it cannot be discriminated against by the government," the Utah Republican said in an interview with Newsmax.
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Lee said the federal government's failure to protect religious liberty — citing Obamacare mandates for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs — was a key motivation for him to introduce the "Marriage and Religious Freedom Act," which protects clergy from being punished if they refuse to perform gay marriages.
"This is something that the overwhelming majority of Americans would support and the overwhelming majority of Americans would be disappointed if they discovered Congress would be unwilling to pass something like this," Lee said.
Lee's bill was introduced before Congress recessed for the holidays. It has the support of Republican Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. A bipartisan companion measure in the House is sponsored by Republican Reps. Raul Labrador of Idaho and Chris Smith of New Jersey, as well as Democrats Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina.
"It is rare that a month or few weeks go by without me hearing from some religious person or institution that has great concern about the status of religious liberty," Lee told Newsmax.
"And that's all the more reason why those of us who believe in religious liberty, whether we are Democrats or Republicans, need to stand up and make clear that there is a good reason why religious liberty receives protection in the Constitution, and there are good reasons why we need to draw protective lines in legislation that we pass that will bolster those protections."
The Utah Republican said President Barack Obama has shown a significant lack of respect for religious freedoms through his administration's effort to expand the size and control of the federal government.
He noted, however, that Obama has specifically stated he has no intention of revoking the tax-exempt status of any church that does not recognize gay marriage.
"In light of the fact he said that, I think it's important that we memorialize that in legislation," Lee added. "If he in fact feels that way, then he should be just fine with this legislation."
Lee also said the revelation earlier this year that the IRS had targeted conservative and tea party groups for extra scrutiny over their tax-exempt status was a factor as well in his moving to write the bill.
"That's why we need to be concerned, but it's also why we should be in a good position to put those assurances to rest in legislation," Lee said.
Despite the fact that there is a bipartisan companion bill in the House, Lee said it is difficult to gauge whether the measure will pass both chambers. Endorsements from numerous religious and conservative organizations could help, though. Among those supporting the measure: the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Family Research Council, National Organization For Marriage, Heritage Action, and Concerned Women For America.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, says the protections under Lee's bill are necessary, Catholic World News reports.
"Increasingly, state laws are being used to target individuals and organizations for discrimination simply because they act on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," Cordileone said.
"Such prejudice must not be allowed to spread to the federal government." NewsMax