Clergy and Religious Institutions Tax-Exempt Protection Act

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On June 28, 2015, New York Times columnist Mark Oppenheimer wrote a column entitled, "Now’s the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions" where he argued that the Supreme Court's ruling on homosexual marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn't be subsidizing religion and non-profits.

In light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Marriage, we are asking Florida Governor Hon. Rick Scott, Florida State Senate President Hon. Andy Gardiner, and Florida Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Steve Crisafulli to enact legislation that would protect the tax-exempt status of churches and religious organizations. This bill will reaffirm the freedom of religion and reinforce that religious entity’s tax-exempt status will not be taken away should they refuse to solemnize any marriage that is contrary to their religious belief.

Both the Florida and U.S. Constitution currently protect religious freedom. However, until such protections are codified under law, there is ambiguity.  It is necessary to strengthen these religious protections for clergy and religious institutions through state law to eliminate any uncertainty.  The state cannot compel any clergy person to solemnize any particular marriage. The need for this legislation is underscored by the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling by 5 to 4 that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

Protecting religious freedom from government intrusion is a state interest of the highest order. Government is obligated to take measures that advance this interest by remedying, deterring, and preventing government interference with religious exercise in a way that complements the protections mandated by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

A recent national survey found that 81 percent of Americans believe that “religious institutions or clergy should not be required to perform same-sex marriages.”

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