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Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)
Rep. Raul Labrador, champion of discrimination
As marriage equality is put into practice in more and more of the government, a concern has spread through the House: Who will protect groups that want to discriminate? And out of this concern, a new bill has emerged:
[Rep. Raul] Labrador said he began drafting his proposal partly out of fear that the IRS and other federal agencies might unfairly target groups that oppose same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court struck down a federal law barring gay couples from obtaining federal benefit this summer. [...]

Asked if he had any evidence of government-backed discrimination against religious or conservative groups opposing same-sex marriages, Labrador cited a California bill that would revoke the tax-exempt status of the Boy Scouts unless they permit gay people to become scout leaders. He also cited comments by Democratic lawmakers, who have said that groups who don't recognize gay marriages should lose their tax-exempt status.

So the "discrimination" in question is loss of tax exemptions and not, say, being forced to shut down by teams of armed government agents? "Discrimination" means having to pay taxes just like millions of other organizations as the price for being allowed to continue discriminating against people based on whom they love? We're to believe that tax-exempt status is, at least when it comes to marriage equality, a right that can only be lost through illicit discrimination, not a privilege that can be lost for all sorts of reasons? Sorry, that doesn't fly. And it doesn't fly when it comes to the Democrats co-sponsoring Labrador's bill, either.

No, the government gets to say "if you want to treat some people or some marriages as less equal than others, you don't get to get out of paying taxes." That is not some new idea, just because it now might be applied in a way you personally don't like.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 10:39 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Idaho Retriever (of bigoted ideas) /nt (7+ / 0-)

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 10:41:44 AM PDT

  •  Can the IRS code consider content? (0+ / 0-)

    If they complied with all the other IRS rules could an organization that was educating/promoting same sex marriage be treated any differently than an organization that was educating/promoting in favor of a traditional definition of marriage, as it relates specifically to their tax exempt status?

    I think this is an interesting legal question.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 11:06:10 AM PDT

    •  Well it's a bit of a red herring (9+ / 0-)

      The right has an irrational fear that somehow, churches will be compelled to perform marriages of which they do not approve. This is absurd on its face, since no member of the clergy is obligated to solemnize a marriage that he or she does not wish to solemnize. No judicial ruling could compel that before and none will do so in the future.

      There are limitations on the extent to which any tax-exempt organization can do advocacy work that has a political component. As long as the dividing line is uniform there isn't a problem. Up to a point it is probably not going to jeopardize an organization's tax exempt status if they advocate in favor of some form of discrimination, however there is definitely a limit. That limit however has to do with what other activities the organization performs and how much of its work is based in advocacy. It isn't based on the content of their advocacy work. I suppose that in principle one could form an organization whose stated purpose to education and advocacy work in support of the restoration of laws relating to racial discrimination and apply for a 501c4 designation. I don't know how well that would fly but at least the argument could be made that it is a legitimate use of the designation.

      The situation is a bit more complicated when it comes to services less directly related to that sort of activity. One of the complexities that churches and other religious bodies function in terms of their doctrine; they also function as businesses. And there is a fine but not always entirely clear line between the one and the other. So for example, a church can refuse to solemnize a marriage it doesn't want to solemnize and no civil authority can make it act under duress. No religious entity can be compelled by court order to hire someone as its clergy. On the other hand, religious bodies also have clerks, janitors, administrative assistants and so on. At what point is it acceptable for a religious organization to hire or fire based on whom those individuals are married to? Can they refuse to provide health insurance to same-sex spouses of employees when they provide insurance to the spouses of opposite sex employees? And how at what point do charitable organizations founded by specific religions but that receive public funds to provide services to the general public cease to be part of their sponsoring religions and become businesses subject to the requirements of non-discrimination ordinances that other businesses must follow? I would argue that any non-ministerial function can and must be treated as a business and subject to the general rule that all potential clients have to be treated equally. A church-based group that develops low-income housing using federal and state funding purports to provide that service to the general public, and not simply to the members of its denomination. It cannot and should not be permitted to discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals or gay and lesbian married couples either in terms of providing housing or in terms of providing housing-related employment opportunities.

      The bigger issue however is that Labrador's proposed law would allow government employees to refuse services, in effect, to anyone they disapproved of, justified on the basis of their religion. That's completely unacceptable. And nobody with any sense, no matter how religiously devoted they might be, should even begin to think this is a good idea, because if you can refuse to transact business with someone based on your beliefs, some other employee elsewhere will therefore be allowed to refuse to transact business with you based on their beliefs. It is likewise to say that of course no government employee should be allowed to refuse to serve someone because of their race or their religion, but sexual orientation discrimination is an exception. Not only will it not fly because it designates a specific class of people against whom it is permissible to discriminate against but it will in effect give privileges to certain  based on their particular religious views. Again, rational person, even one who is an extreme fundamentalist, should find this to be a good idea.

    •  For a short answer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      It's probably "no." You can for example form an organization that provides education and advocacy work intended to legalize something currently illegal, or vice versa. As long as your focus is on the "education" side rather than the "advocacy" side, the IRS should not be determining the legitimacy of your application for tax-exempt status based on what you're advocating. But as I said in my longer comment, that's a separate issue.

    •  They can advocate what ever nut bag position (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob

      They are prohibited in hiring discrimination.

    •  excellent question (First Amendment) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      viral, VClib, sfbob

      with First Amendment implications.

      My take would be that the IRS cannot condition tax-exempt status on what viewpoints a group is advocating, although it has to fit within the definition of "educational and charitable" or whatever rather than political. I don't know what position the California ACLU is taking on the Boy Scout case, but would expect that -- having defended the parade rights of Nazis and the KKK -- they would argue that the government cannot condition tax exemption on the group's opinion on a controversial social issue.

      The same is true for churches; it's fairly well established that the IRS cannot go mucking around in a church's religious views. So, for example, churches that advocate polygamy, or peyote usage in worship, or animal sacrifice, or hijab and burqa wearing, can't have their tax exemption taken away just because some bureaucrat thinks they're out of the mainstream of other religious bodies.

      •  Religion is a Separate Protected Class (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, sfbob

        The government can not make any rules abridging the freedom to practice or favor one religion over another. We are of course perfectly free to tax all religious (and I really wish they would). The Boys Scout, however, are not a religion. The government can and does extend tax cuts to business that they wish to promote all of the time. They also levy special taxes on business that they wish to discourage.

        Currently there is a movement to try and blur the distinction between religious organizations and regular business that have owners that adhere to a particular religion. Opponents of providing access to abortion and birth control to women have unfortunately met with some success in the Courts and it remains to be seen how far this go. That way lies anarachy, because it simply isn't possible to have any kind of rule of law if business entities are free to exempt themselves from any law that they claims violates the owners beliefs, or even more inanely the corporation's codes.

        As to the Boy Scots being denied tax exempt status, I think CA is on firm ground here and not likely to be gainsaid by the Courts in this part of the country.

        •  This is the crux of it really (0+ / 0-)
          Currently there is a movement to try and blur the distinction between religious organizations and regular business that have owners that adhere to a particular religion.
          There is a difference between the owner of a business and the business that they own. The owners have freedom to practice their religion. Their business does not have a religion nor does it have "freedom of religion" unless of course it is an incorporated church or is in the business of promoting a particular religion (and even then it is a business). It operates under the laws of whatever jurisdiction it's in, as well as state and federal law. As much as some people try to blur this distinction that is how strongly we must remind the public that the distinction is there and that it is there for a reason.
          •  So can the government require all restaurants to (0+ / 0-)

            serve pork?

            No more Kosher or Halal restaurants, but not a problem because businesses do not have freedom of religion.

            And, of course, there is a totally secular reason - support of the pork industry.

            •  How would that work? (0+ / 0-)

              Nobody is obligated to eat pork, so who's being discriminated against?

              Restaurants have the right to determine what they serve, they just don't have an unfettered right who decide who they serve it to and who they'll withhold service from, particularly if they state clearly that they are operating on a discriminatory basis. Really, I would think a restaurant operator in a state that allows businesses to refuse service to "anyone" (as is the case in California) would be able to deny service based on "because I don't like you." But if they say they won't serve gay/lesbian couples or mixed race couples, even if that's for reasons related to religion, they'd be in a boatload of trouble.

              •  I can't tell if you think this would or would not (0+ / 0-)

                be Constitutional.

                Nobody is obligated to eat pork, so who's being discriminated against?
                Arguably nobody - the law requiring restaurants to serve pork would be a law of general application applying to all, and it would not directly impose any requirements on any individual.

                On the other hand, it would make Halal and Kosher restaurants impossible.  I think it is very unlikely that SCOTUS would uphold such a law.

                Restaurants have the right to determine what they serve,
                Do they?  So now I'm confused - are you claiming that laws restricting what restaurants can serve or requiring them to serve particular items are NOT constitutional because "Restaurants have the right to determine what they serve"?

                In actual fact, laws have been passed both banning and requiring restaurants to serve particular items.  For example, restaurants in California cannot serve foie gras and in many locations they must serve free water to diners.  I do not think anyone has successfully challenged the constitutionality of these laws.  

                Restaurants have the right to determine what they serve, they just don't have an unfettered right who decide who they serve it to and who they'll withhold service from, particularly if they state clearly that they are operating on a discriminatory basis.
                So are you claiming that laws banning discrimination are held to a lower constitutional standard than other laws when they conflict with religion than other laws?  So a restaurant serving traditional Muslim religious meals can refuse to serve pork, even if the law requires it and can require female patrons to wear hijabs even if the law requires non-discriminatory dress codes (or is that discrimination, so that law does get upheld despite the religious conflict?), but cannot prohibit openly homosexual patrons?

                Is there any actual precedent or legal basis for the idea that non-discrimination laws should be upheld when they conflict with religion when other laws that have a rational basis and similarly conflict with religion would be struck down?

      •  Depends on the CA code. Tax exemption isn't (0+ / 0-)

        a right, under Federal law and probably not under state law either. They can set up any rules that have a legitimate governmental purpose.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 08:10:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  In support of your diary title... (6+ / 0-)

    Everyone has the freedom to practice their religion. What they do NOT have is the freedom to practice their religion at another person. That is why we have anti-discrimination laws--because if people like Labrador get their way, everyone will be entitled to discriminate on any basis as long as they couch that discrimination in terms of their religious beliefs.

  •  and this Supreme Court would probably be . . . (0+ / 0-)

    . . .sympathetic to classifying conservatives as a protected class.

  •  They are ignorant and they do not comprehend (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob

    many things, but I think their stupidity is often feigned.  It's like a Southern belle and her/his "vapors."

    Come on people.  Do they really think anyone with a brain considers their definition of "discrimination" as valid?  Do they really?

  •  Raul Laborador has a Democratic challenger (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, Egalitare

    State Rep. Shirley Ringo is her name and she recently announced her candidacy.  No website is up yet but as soon as it is, we start firing up the base in Idaho.

    Yeah, I know, Idaho is hostile territory for Democrats but we aren't afraid of conservatives and Tea Party folks, are we?

    At the very best we can utilize Ringo's candidacy to build the Democratic base in Idaho, regardless of the odds.

    http://idahodems.org/...

    •  As I opined earlier about Davis in Texas... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob

      ...Ringo CANNOT win if she doesn't try.

      Sure the odds against her are long, but it would be a shame if the 2014 cycle ended up being Year of the Woman 2.5 and she was talked out of the race to "preserve"...something probably not really "preservable."

      Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 03:02:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes sir (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Egalitare

        And it's good she's announcing early.  It helps to build ground support, whether Ringo wins or not.

        And it's good for the Idaho Democratic Party.  If anything, it's one of those Democratic Parties that's getting absolutely no coverage in national news nor as much attention as say the California Democratic Party, Florida Democratic Party or even the Virginia Democratic Party.

        Fire up the base.  'Nuff said.

  •  this is an ongoing stance (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, viral

    by many conservative Christians, to ask them not to discriminate,  to ask them to respect others' civil rights in any way in the public sphere is to deprive them of their right to worship.   The big stink they caused about adding gender id and sexual orientation to the San Antonio non discrimnation policy is an example.

    The lies they spin.   Atheists aren't people who don't believe in god, that is agnostics.  Atheists are radicals who know there is no god and are trying to pass laws to stop religious worship in this country.  There is a war on Christians.   When the right wingers talk about a Christian Nation they only mean Christianity has always been part of the culture, they don't want to pass christianist laws.  

    You can almost go down a laundry list of Faux News talking points and what they pass around on their church blogs and websites.   They are being persecuted.  What they do to other people,  God's will and it is all for their own good.

  •  I didn't realize (0+ / 0-)

    the Boyscouts were primarily a religious organization.

    http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/ Jesus Loves You. How the hell do I have Mojo Level 5? Thought I was Daily Kos' Most Hated.

    by DAISHI on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 03:27:20 PM PDT

    •  Neither did I... (0+ / 0-)

      and I used to be a Boy Scout. I'm sure that my troop leaders (all of whom were Jewish incidentally) would have been very surprised to know they were not only part of a religious organization but a conservative Christian organization at that.

      •  Never took the oath, eh? (0+ / 0-)

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 08:15:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is a difference between a religious org and (0+ / 0-)

          an organization composed of people who generically endorse some sort of supreme being. I guarantee you, at least half the members of my troop, including the Jewish ones (who were the majority) didn't actually believe in God.

          The situation is in some ways similar to AA and other twelve-step based groups. AA's twelve steps include references to God or "a power greater than ourselves" but they leave the definition of those terms up to the individual members. There are plenty of atheists and agnostics (and pagans and Wiccans) in AA.

          •  Actually, AA makes numerous references to (0+ / 0-)

            God, and, iirc, at least one is specifically to the xtian one.

            The boy scouts had a nasty habit, for a long time, of expelling kids who didn't believe in god, though, of course, that was merely official policy and the activities of such troops as followed it.

            That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

            by enhydra lutris on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 11:41:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  In AA, "God" is essentially shorthand (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              enhydra lutris

              for "a power greater than myself." While the people who wrote the AA Big Book (mainly Bill W) made rather careless references to specific views, the intent expressed elsewhere is to be inclusive rather than exclusive. And of course nobody can be expelled from AA.

              As for the BSA, all I have are my own experiences which were admittedly from a good while back. Nobody cared what or if someone else believed in anything. My experience could have been clouded by my having belong to a majority-Jewish, non-church-sponsored troop that met at a local public school and in a very progressive neighborhood in Queens...and in the mid-60's. There are equally openminded troops in San Francisco though, even today.

    •  Hello? Duty to Satan and copuntry? Nope. (0+ / 0-)

      Duty to God and country. First and most important part of oath.

      That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

      by enhydra lutris on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 08:15:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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