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Threatening Religious Institutions ‘Means Going to War’

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Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke may be on his way out of serious consideration for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he seems determined to set fire to the house on the way out.

During a September debate, he told America that, hell yes, he was going to take your AR-15. His poll numbers, already abysmal, somehow managed to sink even lower. So now he’s saying hell yes, he’s going to take your place of worship’s tax-exempt status if its beliefs don’t align with his.

When asked if “religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities — should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage” during last week’s LGBT-themed Democratic town hall on CNN, O’Rourke answered in the affirmative without hesitation.

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” O’Rourke said.

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In other words, if you dare follow the proscriptions on same-sex relationships in the Old Testament, New Testament, Quran or any other holy book that looks askance at modern conceptions of sexual morality, you’re going to lose your tax exemption.

O’Rourke’s fellow Democratic presidential candidate, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg thinks that’s a terrible idea.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Buttigieg, who is gay, blasted his Texan opponent’s idea.

“The idea that you are going to strip churches of their tax-exempt status if they haven’t found their way toward blessing same-sex marriage, I’m not sure [O’Rourke] understood the implications of what he was saying,” Buttigieg said.

“That means going to war not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do.”

And, as opposed to moving people toward tolerance, Buttigieg said it would further polarize American culture.

“Going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers or other religious facilities, I think that’s just going to deepen the divisions that we’re already experiencing — at a moment when we’re actually seeing more and more people motivated often by compassion and by people they love, moving in the right direction on LGBTQ rights,” Buttigieg said. “Which is obviously extremely important to me personally.”

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There’s a massive difference between O’Rourke and Buttigieg, of course, and that’s that Buttigieg still has an outside chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

Do you think O’Rourke’s statement will harm the Democrats?

Taking a rototiller to the First Amendment is a desperate, last-ditch attempt from a man who needs to pull support from anywhere he can get it, including the more radical corners of the party. He may not be able to check the identity politics boxes, but he can darn sure take positions that no other respectable candidate is going to take.

The rest of the party will suffer for this. There’s little chance that O’Rourke will be on the national stage in October 2020. His words, however, will still hang about the party he leaves behind. And even if he doesn’t have much longer to add to the party’s divisions, rest assured he won’t be the last one to desperately grasp at straws on his way out the door.

These are the kinds of statements that drive independents and stubborn conservatives to the polls, and not to pull the lever for the Democrats. No matter who the nominee is, rest assured he or she is going to have to walk back this kind of rhetoric to win over religious voters. You can bet the rest of O’Rourke’s 2020 cohort are aching for the day that, hell yes, the campaign reaper comes to take his microphone.

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