Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would prevent the Obama administration from pressuring churches into recognizing gay marriage.
“It is concerning that we have people in this administration who think that religious liberties are just not that big of a deal,” Lee said in an interview with the Washington Examiner Tuesday.
Despite President Obama’s recent promise to respect religious freedom, Lee worries the White House may try to work around that promise by revoking the tax-exempt status of churches that recognize traditional marriage.
“We need not just statements, but we need legislation to protect religious liberty from this kind of potential threat,” he said in the interview.
Lee’s “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” is meant to prevent federal officials from revoking churches’ and other nonprofits groups’ of their tax-exempt statuses over their support for traditional marriage.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) explained the thinking behind the bill: “Religious freedom is a foundational principle to our great nation, and it’s something that Louisianians and folks across the country cherish — including the millions of Americans, like myself, who support traditional marriage.”
“But, for a number of reasons, this basic freedom is under attack by the current administration. This bill will protect groups from administrative attacks, such as additional hurdles with taxes or obtaining federal grants or contracts,” he said.
Along with Vitter, the bill’s cosponsors include Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).
“What I would like to do is make sure that we go out of our way to protect churches from adverse action that could be taken against them as a result of their doctrinal views of the definition of marriage,” Lee told the Examiner.
No Democratic lawmaker has endorsed the bill yet.
“Nearly every member of Congress on both ends of the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle, will at least purport to be a strong supporter of religious liberty, and this should be an uncontroversial position to take,” Lee said. “I don’t think anyone believes that the federal government ought to be making religious doctrinal decisions on behalf of churches and other religious institutions.”
Don’t be surprised if Lee’s bill touches off intense debate in both Congress and the media. Indeed, considering the fact that the debate over same sex message has in recent years become an emotionally and politically charged issue, the Utah senator’s bill will likely force politicians and pundits alike to take sides.
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