"ERA" will strip churches of tax-exempt status

As if abortion on demand, co-ed prisons and lower standards for military personnel were not reasons enough to oppose the so-called “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA), here is another – the loss of tax exemptions for churches

That’s right, if Virginia passes the ERA during the 2019 General Assembly Session and it is added to the U.S. Constitution, hundreds of churches in Virginia will almost certainly be faced with a dilemma: Change your doctrines, policies, and practices regarding male-only clergy, or risk losing your tax-exempt status. 

Click HERE to tell your state Delegate and Senator to support religious liberty by opposing the ERA! 

Historically, the U.S. Supreme Court has established different degrees of scrutiny for characteristics upon which the government may “discriminate.” Certain traits, like race, have rightly received the very highest “strict scrutiny” by courts because rarely, if ever, could a person’s race be a legitimate factor in how the government treats them. Distinctions by governments involving a person’s sex, however, have always been viewed with less scrutiny than traits like race because, as we all know, there are several important differences between males and females, some of which necessitate distinctions in the law. So things like sex-segregated prisons, sports teams, and public bathroom/changing/showering facilities, variations in physical fitness requirements for firefighters and soldiers, and maternal leave policies – these are not considered unfair discrimination because they are important to actually ensuring fairness, as well as privacy, safety, and dignity. 

The ERA would force courts to consider all distinctions based on sex with the highest standard of “strict scrutiny” – the same standard as race and other traits. Why is this important? Because in 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the IRS could revoke religiously-based Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status over its policy against interracial dating because it held that the government’s interest in eradicating racial discrimination from education overrode the university’s First Amendment rights to religious free speech. 

In other words, if the Constitution treats sex like it treats skin color, churches that only allow men to serve as pastors will be in trouble. Just like the government can take away tax-exempt status if a church had a policy discriminating against people on the basis of race, so too could the government take away tax-exempt status if a church holds a conservative doctrinal position on male clergy. Religious liberty will not protect faithful churches from this consequence if the ERA passes. And as the great Virginian and first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall, famously said, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” 

Of course, we know that God has created all human beings equal and in His image, and that the only truly important distinction among them is that He created them either male or female. (Matthew 19:4-5 “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”) And we also know that this critical distinction does not make them less equal to one another. Equality is not sameness. God created men and women to be complementary to one another, not in competition. But if suddenly our laws enforce a rigid standard of sameness, it will only induce a relentless rivalry.

We cannot allow the government to erase all meaningful distinctions between men and women, and in the process, strip countless churches of their tax exemptions!

Without their tax exemption, many churches across the country will find it even more difficult, if not impossible, to afford to pay their staff, fund important outreach programs in their community, and provide a place of worship for their congregation. 

Please call, write, email, or visit your legislators today and tell them to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, which will jeopardize the tax-exempt status of so many churches. 

Click HERE to email your legislators to let them know that you oppose the ERA! 

If you would like a representative from The Family Foundation to come to your church, community group, or other organization to provide education on the ERA or other policy issues, please contact our Director of Grassroots, Sean Maguire, at sean@familyfoundation.org.