By John Zmirak
If you aren’t following the arguments over same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court, you should be. Even if you don’t cater weddings or sell pizza in Indiana, your religious freedom is in danger. For detailed accounts of the debate and the questions asked by justices that might be readable tea leaves, see Ryan Anderson’s analysis and the capsule summary provided by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker.
The outcome of this week’s debate will determine whether orthodox American Christians will fall to the status of dhimmis, the third-class Christian citizens of sharia Muslim states. (Dhimmis have bare freedom of worship, but pay special, heavy taxes and are excluded from any positions of influence.) If the court imposes same-sex “marriage,” it will be exposing the churches attended by the majority of Americans to sustained legal attack. Does that sound like crazy alarmism? The Solicitor General of the United States agrees with me. Except that he is in favor of it.
Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether acceptance of same-sex marriage would subject orthodox Christian churches to the treatment once accorded Bob Jones University, which lost its tax-exempt status because its ban on interracial dating contradicted federal policy. Verrilli seemed a little taken aback, then answered yes, “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”
In other words, if the Supreme Court votes against natural marriage, it will free up the feds to target organizations you might have heard of, such as the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. (In theory, the feds might also take aim at every mosque in America, but something tells me that the mosques are likely to get a pass.) Remember that the Obama administration has already tried to force these same churches to provide abortifacients to their employees. Attacking their tax-exempt status over biblical sexual ethics is peanuts next to that.
In case you don’t follow tax policy as a hobby, see Joe Carter’s detailed account of the grave consequences this would have for churches. Put briefly, most would close. Unless, of course, they caved.
Imagine if your house of worship needed to turn a hefty profit, so it could pay the same taxes on its property and income as a casino or a strip joint — unlike Planned Parenthood, since that abortion business is a tax-exempt (and federally funded) “charity.” Imagine if none of the money you gave your church were deductible from your taxes, unlike the money you sent to Greenpeace. Many if not most religious schools and colleges would also shut their doors, unable to pay the same business taxes as for-profit diploma mills.
The First Amendment won’t prevent any of this. When the dictates of a religion conflict with what courts have ruled is a constitutional right, the church’s claims give way every time.