The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Freedom for whom?

Politics | A Democratic presidential candidate proposes a charity-crashing measure to promote LGBT issues
by Harvest Prude
Posted 10/17/19, 04:19 pm

When CNN’s Don Lemon asked former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas if religious colleges, churches, and charities should “lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage,” the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate didn’t even hesitate.

“Yes,” he said firmly. “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.”

His remarks drew wild applause at CNN’s LGBT town hall gathering on Oct. 10. The comments might have been just a throwaway applause line, hastily walked back, but religious freedom and law experts say O’Rourke’s stance is neither constitutional nor practical.

“That means going to war with not only churches but also mosques and organizations that don’t have the same view of religious principles as I do,” said South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of O’Rourke’s Democratic rivals who is a homosexual and attends an Episcopal church.

O’Rourke spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier later tried to clarify her boss’ statement by claiming he meant “religious institutions who take discriminatory action” rather than those that simply have Biblical beliefs about marriage. O’Rourke later said on MSNBC that the way churches, mosques, and synagogues conduct their faith is “not the government’s business.” But he still doubled down on the principle: “When you are providing services in the public sphere, say, higher education, or healthcare, or adoption services, and you discriminate or deny equal treatment under the law based on someone’s skin color or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation, then we have a problem.”

President Donald Trump brought up O’Rourke’s stance at the Values Voter Summit on Saturday in Washington. He pledged he would “never allow the IRS to be used as a political weapon.”

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote that moving to end religious organizations’ tax-exempt status would decimate the charitable sector, leaving millions worse off. He said it would “cripple the provision of social services to the poor and suffering, since religious institutions feed the hungry, treat substance abuse, resettle refugees, provide healthcare, housing, legal services, mentoring, literacy education and employment training, and make countless other humane contributions to the common good.”

Gerson also pointed out that in the 1970 Supreme Court case Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, Chief Justice Warren Burger opined that taxing churches would unwisely entangle religion and the government. The tax code in its current form, according to Burger, “simply abstains from demanding that the church support the state.”

Michael Wear, who served as a faith outreach adviser for President Barack Obama, warned that O’Rourke's remarks might turn off religious voters

“If that isn’t a religious freedom violation, I don’t know what is,” Wear told NBC News. “It’s so facially unconstitutional that it’s hard for people to believe there isn’t ill will involved in even suggesting it.”

Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the religious liberty law firm Becket, said government officials are increasingly labeling traditional religious beliefs as bigotry, but the public demands more of a balance.

“I think a lot of Christians—they are just waking up to the fact that religious freedom is not as secure as it once was,” he said. “The conflict between gay rights and religious liberty doesn’t have to end in the suppression of traditional religious views. On the whole, I don’t think Americans really want the government to pick one side of the debate over human sexuality and crush everybody else who disagrees.”

Associated Press/Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais (file) Associated Press/Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais (file) Hunter Biden

Biden’s son takes a step back

Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, admitted this week that he exercised “poor judgment” in serving on the boards of Ukrainian and Chinese companies but maintained he had done nothing wrong.

Biden said he would step down from the board of the Chinese firm BHR Equity Investment Fund Management Company this month to avoid any further appearance of impropriety. Questions about his business dealings have become an issue for his father’s presidential campaign.

The younger Biden said the work had given “a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father,” likely referring to allegations that President Donald Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the Biden family and the energy company Burisma that had Biden on its board.

The elder Biden pledged that no member of his family would work with a foreign company or hold a role in his administration if he becomes president.

During the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday, the former vice president also insisted his son did nothing wrong. He said U.S. interest in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, not his son’s work, motivated his effort to shepherd the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Biden said he had never discussed Ukraine with his son and their work was separate.

“What we have to do now is focus on Donald Trump,” he said. “He doesn’t want me to be the candidate. He’s going after me because he knows if I get the nomination, I will beat him like a drum.” —Anne K. Walters

2020 Update

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts appears to be gaining ground in key battleground states despite facing criticism from 11 other Democratic presidential candidates during Tuesday’s debate in Ohio.

Warren defended her “Medicare for All” healthcare plan when her rivals questioned the costs, as well as her claim she would not raise expenses for middle-class families. Several moderate candidates went after Warren’s lack of specifics on how she would pay for the plan, accusing her of being dishonest about its effect on taxpayers.

“We owe it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said.

The focus on Warren in Tuesday’s debate seemed to propel her to the place of front-runner in the crowded Democratic field. Her main competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, faces increasing suspicion over his son’s foreign business dealings.

Biden also faltered in quarterly fundraising figures announced this week, falling behind Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Warren, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Biden brought in $15.7 million in the third quarter, compared to Sanders’ $25.3 million, Warren’s $24.7 million, and Buttigieg’s $19.2 million. Biden also had far less cash on hand than many of his rivals. —A.K.W.

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 10/18/2019 01:33 pm

    Beto O’Rourke will happily throw a very large percentage of Americans, those who have religious beliefs,  under the bus to please a small LGBT minority. I’m glad he is making that totally clear. 

    Warren will happily bring in a system to pay for healthcare that will result in higher costs for the majority of Americans. I’m glad she is adamant in her refusal to talk about those costs.

    And then there’s advocacy even the most extreme forms of abortion.  There’s open borders.  The list goes on.

    By the time we vote in 2020, the majority of us will have more than ample opportunity to see how Democratic candidates are advocating positions that are destructive to our families, our economy, our security.

    No excuse for voting for even the most “moderate” of the Democrats.


    Posted: Fri, 10/18/2019 03:38 pm

    Watch for Warren's double-speak. There are lawyers who know how to make you think you heard something that is not what they said. Obama was very good at that, plus he is as smooth talking as the devil. 

    Did Warren actually say there would be no health-care cost? Most people, probably not Warren, are already paying into the Medicare scam. Besides that, has ANYONE figured out WHO middle-class America really is? Dems continue to play the "middle class" America tune. 

  • Big Jim
    Posted: Fri, 10/18/2019 03:44 pm

    " ... I will beat him like a drum."

    Snare, bass or kettle?