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Right Opinion

Man on Admission: Verrilli Reveals Taxing Truth

Tony Perkins · Apr. 30, 2015

The biggest news from [Tuesday’s] Supreme Court arguments isn’t news at all to conservatives: Same-sex “marriage” is a threat to religious freedom. For once, that revelation didn’t come from one of the lawyers on our side but from the Obama administration’s own attorney. In a rare moment of candor, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli sent a clear signal on where this debate is headed, and it isn’t to the marriage altar.

As the President’s chief attorney made stunningly clear, redefining marriage is — and has never been — the end goal of homosexuals. Silencing dissent is. And you can’t silence dissent without punishing speech and belief — which is apparently what the government has in mind if the Court rules in the Left’s favor.

Looking ahead to a possible constitutional right to same-sex “marriage,” Justice Samuel Alito asked a key question: “In the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax-exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?” With chilling honesty, Verrilli admitted, “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is — it is going to be an issue.”

Translation: If churches, religious groups, schools, or nonprofits won’t surrender their beliefs on marriage, the government will make it hurt. A lot. Imagine what’s happening to Aaron and Melissa Klein (slapped with a $135,000 fine for their marriage views) occurring on a national scale through hijacked tax exemptions, Pell grants, loans, and other government contracts. If the Supreme Court finds invisible ink granting a “right” to same-sex “marriage” in the Constitution, it will be a declaration of war on principled objectors. Any nonprofit that holds to a natural definition of marriage — the same definition our own President held three years ago — would have a target on its back. (Or a bigger target, I should say.)

Is it really a stretch, given the IRS’s history of harassment and discrimination against conservatives, to think that it wouldn’t show a “smidgeon” of prejudice? This ruling would give the political operatives at one of the country’s most powerful agencies even more ammunition to punish opposition. Resistance — even principled, seemingly protected resistance — wouldn’t be tolerated. The IRS, which has been weaponized under this administration, will stop at nothing, including stripping tax exemptions, to force acceptance.

Recognizing the damage his admission could do, Verrilli tried to soften the blow by suggesting that “different states could strike different balances.” But if liberals won’t accept the long-held right of the states to regulate marriage, what makes anyone think they would accept it here? Besides, Justice Antonin Scalia fired back, “If you let the states do it, you can make an exception… You can’t do that once it is a constitutional proscription.” Carried to its logical conclusion, the government would be in a position of punishing any non-sanctioned views. This is about controlling beliefs and actions the government doesn’t agree with — which is not only a direct attack on our First Amendment freedoms, but an attack on what it means to be an American. This is what the Left has been searching for: a selective, surgical removal of the conservative voice.

And the disadvantaged, poor, needy populations the Left claims to care about would be the unintended victims. Under this brave new world of “progressive totalitarianism,” as Ed Whelan calls it, churches, Christian media, schools, or groups like FRC wouldn’t be the only ones suffering. People around the world served by Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, and countless others who depend on the generosity and efficiency of their programs would feel that pain. So much for love being love.

As horrifying as Verrilli’s revelation was, the Solicitor General might have done us a huge favor. No one has made a better case for Congress’s Marriage and Religious Freedom Act than the Obama administration just did. Under the bill that conservatives plan to reintroduce, it would be illegal for the government to discriminate against individuals, organizations, and small businesses who believe in natural marriage. The same institutions that Verrilli vows to hunt down — child welfare organizations, private schools, religious universities, relief providers, abstinence groups, military religious contractors, adoption agencies, and political nonprofits — would be spared the government’s crackdown.

If you like your religious liberty, you could keep it. A concept that [Tuesday’s] proceedings proved is more and more foreign.

Congress Sets the Record State on Marriage

America’s justices have plenty to do without taking on Congress’s job. And while the Supreme Court was busy debating America’s marriage policy, the people who were actually hired to legislate refused to stay on the sidelines. And for good reason. Rewriting marriage law isn’t the justices’ job — a view that 61% of Americans share. Several of our conservative friends, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kans.), spoke out about [Tuesday’s] proceedings and vowed that the Court’s decision isn’t the final one.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas), who kicked off the Stand for Marriage Rally at the Court, joined me on radio [Tuesday] to offer his thoughts, stating, “It’s very scary to think about the fact that the over 50 million voters in this country who voted to affirm marriage between a man and a woman may have their views overturned.”

Congressman John Fleming (R-La.) agrees that the Supreme Court doesn’t have the right to redefine marriage for all states, “but instead should affirm their ability to decide marriage policy. This is a constitutional right reserved for each state.” His Pennsylvania colleague, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) repeated what social science says: kids do best with a mom and a dad. “As the Constitution remains silent on the issue, the people of Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky and many other states have voted to maintain this definition. I hope that the government and nine unelected justices of the Supreme Court will respect the democratic process, and not actively overrule the voices of millions of Americans.”

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) pointed out that true tolerance and diversity is a “nation that allows differing opinions to flourish. One in which those opinions — and the people holding them — are all welcome. We can all speak out — the protected First Amendment freedom to agree or disagree is part of what makes America great. The federal government does not force us to all think a certain way, act a certain way or believe a certain way, including concerning marriage. This is a key day in our national debate, but a decision from a court does not determine the direction of a nation. Words like ‘marriage’ have meaning — that meaning is determined by the citizens of each state, not the courts of the nation.”

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) echoed those concerns and reiterated that her own state “overwhelmingly voted to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman; and I support their right to define this issue. No matter the outcome, I will continue champion marriage as the union of one man and one woman so every child has the opportunity to have a mom and a dad.”

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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