Beto O'Rourke said Thursday night that, if elected president, he would revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that oppose same-sex marriage, The Dallas Morning News reports.
Speaking Thursday night at a CNN town hall devoted to LGBTQ issues, host Don Lemmon asked O'Rourke directly if he thinks religious institutions, such as churches, colleges, and charities, should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.
O'Rourke was unambiguous in his response, simply saying, "Yes."
The response drew applause from the audience.
O'Rourke then expanded on what he meant.
"There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. So as president we're going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing on the rights of our fellow Americans," he said.
Religious Organizations and Tax-Exempt Status
According to legal aid organization Nolo.com, religious organizations such as churches, charities, and schools are all considered charities for tax purposes. Because charitable activities include the advancement of religion, that means that such organizations are exempt from paying income and property taxes.
However, a 1954 amendment to the tax code, known colloquially as the Johnson Amendment, limits what such organizations can do without risking their tax-exempt status. Specifically, according to Newsweek, the amendment was put into place to prevent such tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates. It does not prohibit such organizations from engaging in all political activity.