As the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage draws closer, several leaders, including Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, addressed the media on Capitol Hill this week to draw attention to the importance of upholding religious liberty for faith-based groups that believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) hosted the press conference on Wednesday. He expressed particular concern with the admission by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to the U.S. Supreme Court that if "gay marriage" is construed to be a constitutional right, then the tax-exempt status of religious institutions could be at risk. Senator Lee noted that the Administration sang a different tune just two years ago following the Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act. After the ruling, President Obama said, “On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital.”
At the press event this week, Senator Lee stated, “We need to make sure President Obama really means it and that we put the force of law behind his statement.”
Dr. Johnson joined Dr. Samuel Oliver, President of Union University; Dr. Keith Wiebe, President of American Association of Christian Schools; and Travis Weber, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, in expressing alarm at the prospect of Christian schools potentially losing their tax-exempt status if the Supreme Court imposes gay marriage. Indeed, Dr. Johnson added that other Christian organizations, including broadcasters who have licenses from the FCC, could be “at risk if they don't honor this new 'constitutional' right.”
He also highlighted that General Verrilli, in response to Justice Samuel Alito’s question about a college potentially losing its tax-exempt status for adhering to its convictions on marriage, stated, “It's certainly going to be an issue” (emphasis added).
Dr. Johnson declared at the press conference that this is a “direct threat to religious liberty” and “the government must not be permitted to threaten the Bill of Rights.”
"The freedom to believe" and "the freedom to speak" are both under threat, according to Dr. Johnson.
Senator Lee said he plans soon to introduce under a new name an update of last session’s Marriage and Religious Freedom Act. Dr. Johnson voiced strong support for this bill, which would ensure the government takes no “adverse action” against those who act in accordance with their religious beliefs about marriage. Some examples of government discrimination would be denying tax-exempt status or accreditation, disallowing charitable deductions, and thwarting access to grants or licenses.
A letter to Congress signed by more than 70 Christian educational leaders from across the country was also released by the Family Research Council at the time of the news conference. The letter expresses “deep concern about the potential loss of tax-exempt status for educational institutions should the Supreme Court find constitutional legitimacy for same-sex marriage.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, (left) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, June 3, 2015, as Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) (right) looks on. Photograph courtesy of Carrie Knepper / FRC.
Published: June 4, 2015