An atheist lawmaker has proposed legislation in Nebraska that would essentially tax churches and other religious organizations.
Ernie Chambers, who may be the highest-ranking openly atheist politician in the country, introduced a bill that would eliminate a state property tax exemption for those organizations.
Chambers, an independent, submitted the bill, LB675, as simply a copy of the existing statute with the word “religious” crossed out at each mention among groups that are currently exempt from property taxes.
The lawmaker, who is the longest-serving senator in Nebraska history, suggested the measure to generate more revenue and reduce local government reliance on state funding.
“Religious people say they want to carry out the directives of Jesus who said, ‘Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,’ when he was asked whether taxes should be paid to Caesar. In short: ‘PAY YOUR TAXES,’” Chambers wrote in the bill’s statement of intent. “This bill simply carries out what Jesus wanted to see his followers do, and they certainly want to see the Scriptures fulfilled.”
The bill is not expected to make it out of committee, but Chambers said he may attach it as an amendment to other bills he opposes.
He served in the legislature from 1970 to 2008 but was prevented by term limits from running for re-election until 2012.
Watch this video biography of Chambers posted online by NETnebraska: