Over 20 House conservatives have requested legislation to prevent government agencies from discriminating against American citizens based on their religion.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, led fellow House Republicans in signing a letter last week to three colleagues requesting that House appropriators add language to legislation to prohibit the federal government “from taking any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is, or should be recognized as, a union of one man and one woman.”
The lawmakers add:
Without this language, we fear that the federal government will begin to systematically discriminate against religious schools, faith-based organizations, and other non-profits by barring their participation in federal programs, and removing their tax-exempt status, for their views on marriage.
“Americans should be free to believe that marriage is between one man and one woman without fear of the government penalizing or even prosecuting them,” Roy said in a prepared statement. “Sadly, dozens of Americans have been silenced or pressured to back down in high-profile cases, and thousands, perhaps millions, more have been silenced or intimidated by these examples.”
The letter from Roy and the other lawmakers, dated March 24, is addressed to Reps. Kay Granger, R-Texas; Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; and Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., all of whom are involved in crafting a budget for three major Cabinet-level departments: Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, also expressed the need for legislation to address this issue.
“The many Americans who hold to a traditional understanding of marriage deserve to have their First Amendment rights upheld,” Nance said in a prepared statement. “Congressman Chip Roy has called for appropriators to include language to protect these Americans’ rights. We need the ‘Roy Amendment,’ much like we continue to need the Hyde and Weldon Amendments that protect Americans and taxpayer dollars from abuse.”
Congress’ Hyde and Weldon amendments both are intended to prevent taxpayers’ money from funding abortions.
The First Amendment protects religious freedom, among other freedoms. However, federal agencies nevertheless have targeted Americans, in some cases specifically for their traditional religious views.
One such case happened recently: In 2019, Christians Engaged applied for nonprofit status. The Texas-based nonprofit says it was created to “awaken, motivate, educate, and empower ordinary believers in Jesus Christ.”
The IRS took 18 months before sending the Christian organization a rejection letter saying that it “engage[s] in prohibited political campaign intervention” and “operate[s] for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the [Republican] party.”
The IRS also said in its rejection letter to Christians Engaged that “[B]ible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] Party and candidates.”
In the rejection latter, Stephen A. Martin, the IRS’ exempt organizations director, wrote:
Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible says in areas where they can be instrumental, including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations.
The Federalist Society concluded that this decision by the IRS was a “blatant violation of the Constitution and the IRS’ own “regulations.”
“By denying Christians Engaged’s application, the IRS effectively said that a Christian group doesn’t have the right to speak out in the public square on public issues,” Joshua D. Holdenried, vice president and executive director of Napa Legal Institute, wrote for the New York Post. “If the founders of Christians Engaged wanted to prove their organization isn’t Republican, the IRS essentially said they would have to renounce God.”
In a 2021 letter, Roy and other House lawmakers requested that the IRS review the case and terminate staff members who were involved in the reasoning that led to the rejection of nonprofit status for Christians Engaged.
The letter noted that if the IRS broadly used this interpretation of the law, “it would jeopardize the tax-exempt status of thousands of Christian churches across the country. ”The IRS eventually reversed its decision and granted tax-exempt status to Christians Engaged.
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