New York Times’ religion columnist recently argued in Time Magazine that churches should lose their tax-exempt status. Patheos columnist and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Owen Strachan was among those who responded forcefully to Oppenheimer. I had Oppenheimer on Monday’s show to discuss his radical proposition which would in fact result in the deaths of at least tens of thousands simply by the crippling of one agency’s work –World Vision– and untold suffering at home and abroad:
HH: Joined now by Mark Oppenheimer, who writes the bi-weekly Beliefs column for the New York Times. He is also the editor-at-large at Tablet, and he writes for the Atlantic, the Nation, This American Life, elsewhere. Last week, he wrote for Time Magazine a column that is titled Now’s The Time To End Tax Exemption For Religious Institutions. He includes in that the statement rather than try to rescue tax-exempt status for organizations that dissent from settled public policy, on matters of race or sexuality, we need to take the more radical step. It’s time to abolish or greatly diminish their tax-exempt status. Mark, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MO: It’s great to be back. That was an epic conversation we had a couple of years ago about sports and Christianity, and I’ve been waiting to come back ever since.
HH: Well, this is, you wrote quite the throw down on taking away tax-exempt status for churches. Have you rethought your position since you wrote this?
MO: Well, first, I want to back up and say that as you know, because you read the piece, unlike lots of people in the so-called blogosphere who seem to read only the headline, I don’t say take away tax-exempt status for religious, for conservative or traditionalist religious institutions. I don’t even say take away the tax exempt status of churches and religious institutions. I say non-profit institutions. So we should be clear that mine is an argument on principle that this is a tax loophole that you can drive many, many trucks through – left wing trucks, right wing trucks, and that it doesn’t make sense in the logic of our economy. So to answer your question, which I always want to do, certainly all the feedback I’ve gotten has caused me to refine my position and nuance it, and I’ve thought about other exceptions I would made, and I’ve thought about exceptions I wouldn’t make. It’s been a thrilling ride, because apparently, this touched a nerve. But the important thing to note is this isn’t actually a piece about churches and synagogues. It’s a piece about non-profits. Continue Reading