Tag Archives: churches

Correcting the record: Question 6 and religious liberty protections

At Red Maryland (page archive), Brian Griffiths writes the following:

Something that should have been obvious from the get go but 2012’s Question 6, which was supported by Maryland Democrats and current Republican Senate candidate Chrys Kefalas, contained not a single provision protecting the religious liberties of any Marylanders.

To begin with a parenthetical issue, invoking Chrys Kefalas seems a little gratuitous, since Question 6 was supported not only by a majority of Maryland voters but by a number of elected Republicans like now-Howard County executive Allan Kittleman (and opposed by some elected Democrats). What is not gratuitous, but simply wrong, is Griffiths’ assertion about the bill’s contents, even as he links its synopsis, which even at a glance shows the contrary:

Altering a provision of law to establish that only a marriage between two individuals who are not otherwise prohibited from marrying is valid in the State; prohibiting an official of a religious order or body authorized to perform a marriage ceremony from being required to solemnize or officiate at a marriage or religious rite of a marriage in violation of the constitutional right to free exercise of religion; making the Act contingent on the resolution of litigation under specified circumstances; etc.

Emphasis added. And that was only one of a series of religious- and conscience-protecting provisions in Sections II, III, and IV. The bill’s full text, linked from the history/synopsis page, summarizes these additional provisions in its prefatory description of purposes:

…establishing that certain religious entities have exclusive control over their own theological doctrine, policy teachings, or beliefs regarding who may marry within that faith; prohibiting certain officials from being subject to any fine or penalty for failing or refusing to join individuals in marriage; prohibiting certain religious entities from being required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual under certain circumstances; providing that a certain refusal by a certain religious entity or an individual employed by a certain religious entity may not create a civil claim or cause of action or result in any State action to penalize, withhold benefits from, or discriminate against such entities or individuals; prohibiting certain fraternal benefit societies from being required to admit an individual as a member or provide insurance benefits to an individual under certain circumstances; providing that a certain refusal by a certain fraternal benefit society may not create a civil claim or cause of action or constitute the basis for the withholding of governmental benefits or services from the fraternal benefit society; …

Hat tip for noticing this error to David Lublin at Seventh State. Lublin’s point of view on some of the other issues involved differs from my own, but I agree on one point: Red Maryland owes Kefalas in particular an apology. And while we’re at it, after this and the recent episode involving CD-6 candidate Amie Hoeber, would anyone regard Red Maryland as a suitably impartial sponsor for a debate between Kefalas and other Republican Senate candidates?

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“Green in exchange for green”

Joseph Bottum in the Weekly Standard on the tax-credits-for-green-sermons arrangement in Prince George’s County. Earlier here.

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Permeable wall of separation: P.G. churches promised tax break for green sermons

The Washington Post’s reporter, Arelis Hernández, doesn’t seem quite to realize just how outrageous this story is about churches angling for exemptions from a state-mandated stormwater fee in Prince George’s County:

Thomas and other pastors also have agreed to start “green” ministries to maintain the improvements at their churches, and to preach environmentally focused sermons to educate their congregations.

In exchange for the commitments both as to physical upgrades to church property and the right sorts of exhortation addressed to their congregations, the churches are getting very tangible benefits, some coming directly out of the pockets of Prince George’s County taxpayers (emphasis added):

So far, about 30 churches have applied. Forestville Redeemer was the first. They are planning to install rain barrels, build rain gardens, plant trees and, perhaps, replace their blacktop with permeable pavement. The government will cover most of the cost. In return, a fee that was estimated at $744 a year will be reduced to “virtually nothing,” Ortiz said.

Organized churches play a central role in P.G. County politics, so it is not especially surprising to see a special deal cut for them. What we might not have expected was how openly pastors were willing to trade the content of sermons for government cash on the (rain) barrel. More coverage: WBAL, Derek Hunter/Daily Caller, and Ira Stoll, who writes:

But the bigger point is a problem with big government and taxes in general. The more burdensome the taxes are, the greater is the temptation of those crushed by them to trade their freedom and independence for a discount on them, and the more power the government has to dictate behavior. The tax becomes not a way to raise revenue for the government, but a method for exerting control.

Let’s hope religion-in-public-life pundits don’t pull their punches on exactly how bad this sort of deal is. They should be at least as upset as those of us on the secular side.

[cross-posted and adapted from Secular Right]

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