Feb 122009
 
Authors: Alex Stephens

What’s more important than feeding starving children, sheltering the homeless, building hospitals and relieving struggling families? Keeping homosexuals down in California, obviously.

After its passage in November, Proposition 8 banned gay marriage in California. It was a harsh blow to the gay and lesbian community. The passage highlighted the strength of organized interests and their divinely righteous ability to stamp out equality wherever it rears its sinful head.

Campaign contribution efforts to ensure the success of Proposition 8 exceeded $40 million, indicating that it was of some great importance to many people.

Among the list of top donors were individuals like Alan Ashton from Utah (he invented Word Perfect), and groups like the National Organization for Marriage based in New Jersey.

Isn’t America great? The freedom to legally persecute your own countrymen from thousands of miles away just can’t be topped. The Proposition was on the California ballot, for Californians to decide, and not be influenced by people who live outside of California. Since when did that become an acceptable practice?

What a cool concept too though — are you uncomfortable with other peoples’ lifestyles, does it offend your God? Just toss some money around and you too can sleep well at night knowing that only a man and a woman can legally marry each other in some distant state.

More disturbing is that tax-exempt religious institutions contributed vast quantities of money to get Proposition 8 passed — and they are still considered tax exempt.

Headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut, The Knights of Columbus is a right-wing political branch of the Catholic Church. They donated about $1.5 million toward Proposition 8, according to anti-Prop 8 group Californians Against Hate.

Under tax code 501(c)(8), they are considered a “fraternal beneficiary society” because they provide health care to their members. Within the leniency of the code, they may “[engage] in political activity, including intervention in political campaigns . without jeopardizing [their] exempt status.”

According to the Colorado Independent, Focus on the Family, a megachurch located in Colorado Springs, spent over $700,000 on the campaign and are under a similar tax-exempt status that all churches in the U.S. enjoy.

Does that mean that if I establish a church that provides some form of social benefit, such as feeding the non-gay homeless, I can interfere with the constitution of another state and not have to pay taxes too?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in a bizarre twist of irony and hypocrisy. The Independent reported that they donated over $180,000 toward Proposition 8, while individual Mormon families were urged to donate a combined $20 million, totaling nearly half of all contributions.

Yes, the proud religion that was once persecuted for allowing their men to have multiple wives (marriages between a man and a woman, and a woman, and a woman, and so on) was consequently ousted to live in the barren, salty desert of Utah where they spent millions of dollars denying marriage rights to gay Californians.

What happened to the separation of church and state? Religious organizations’ ability to maintain a government tax-exempt status when they are actively shaping government policy is wrong. When a church steps beyond the realm of charity it should pay the price (a tax) like every other organization does.

In America, the land of tolerance, it was my understanding that all men were created equal, that we were all endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of our happiness. Homosexuals pursuing their happiness should not be impeded by anyone, least of all a church.

It’s an atrocity that still haunts our landscape, even after all the civil rights progress our country has made. But if a church still feels compelled, hopefully not by Jesus, to continue this sort of practice, they should at least be taxed.

Alex Stephens is a junior political science major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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