The Democratic presidential candidate gave an unequivocal answer Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights, drawing intense criticism from Republicans and religious groups.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said religious institutions should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, a position that sparked swift and fierce criticism from social conservatives.
The former El Paso congressman made the comment Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights. Anchor Don Lemon asked O’Rourke, “Do you think religious institutions — like colleges, churches, charities — should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”
“Yes,” O’Rourke replied without hesitating, drawing a round of applause. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us, and so as president, we are going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
In taking the stance, O’Rourke again staked out politically explosive territory with few allies in the primary field, much like his crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons following the deadly El Paso shooting in August. He did not immediately back down from the position on tax-exempt status, tweeting his quote on the topic minutes after he was done at the town hall.
By Friday, GOP reaction had intensified, with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, issuing a statement denouncing O’Rourke for “extreme intolerance” and “bigoted nonsense.”
“O’Rourke and some Democrats have declared war on churches,” Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz said in a statement. “We say come and take it. This unconstitutional threat of using the government to punish churches for their Biblical beliefs on marriage must end and will be vigorously opposed. This is just another example of leftists that want to effectively ban the Bible and destroy our US Constitution.”
Calling O’Rourke’s position a “direct affront to the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty,” the Plano-based First Liberty Institute said it was prepared to take legal action if O’Rourke or any future president sought to carry out the idea.
Earlier in the town hall, which was in Los Angeles, one of O’Rourke’s primary rivals, Cory Booker, did not go nearly as far in response to a similar question. Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, emphasized that there needs to be “consequences for discrimination” but repeatedly declined to say if he believed religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status over opposition to gay marriage.
O’Rourke released a plan for LGBTQ equality in June. Lemon cited it as he asked O’Rourke the question Thursday night, noting it said, “Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it should not be used to discriminate.”
O’Rourke has previously targeted tax-exempt status for the National Rifle Association, calling for its revocation in response to a report by U.S. Senate Democrats that it served as a “foreign asset” for Russia ahead of the 2016 election.
WATCH LIVE: House Judiciary Committee holds second day of hearings on the impeachment of Donald Trump
The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee takes up the impeachment of Donald Trump again on Monday morning, with lawmakers expected to hear evidence against the president that could lead to a Senate trial for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Monday's hearing will include opening arguments "made by Barry H. Berke for the committee Democrats and Stephen R. Castor for the Republicans. Daniel S. Goldman, the Democratic counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, will then present the evidence for impeachment, and Mr. Castor will present the evidence against it. Judiciary Committee members will then ask questions," reports the New York Times.
Mike Bloomberg doesn’t understand he is part of the problem
The entry of Michael Bloomberg, one the world’s wealthiest men, into the Democratic Presidential primary contest arrives at a moment when Earth is facing growing levels of obscene wealth concentration and income disparity.
This article first appeared in Salon
“Last year 26 people owned the same [amount of wealth] as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity,” reported Oxfam International in 2018. According to the anti-poverty charity, in the decade since Wall Street’s pillaging of Main Street that induced the Great Recession, “the fortunes of the richest have risen dramatically” with the number of billionaires doubling.The former New York City mayor touts the amassing of his $55.4 billion fortune, starting from a $10-million-dollar buyout he got when he was fired from Salomon Brothers, as one of his top qualifications for the nation’s highest office.
GOP’s Collins demands delay in impeachment hearing after being overwhelmed with Dem’s massive case against Trump
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) has demanded that Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) postpone a scheduled House Judiciary Committee hearing slated for Monday after being blindsided by a massive report from the Democrats on the committee making the case for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
According to Newsmax, Collins -- who has become one of the president's main surrogates opposing ouster of the president -- fired back at the Democrats over their Saturday release of thousands of pages of documents to be considered from the House impeachment investigation.