Strip Discriminatory Tax Exemptions Now

Last week’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that expanded the fundamental right of marriage to all same-sex couples was historic. For years, LGBT rights advocates worked tirelessly to end state discrimination and their labor bore fruit in an eloquent and readable opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Some vestiges of government-backed discrimination, however, remain and must be swiftly addressed.

It is time we strip discriminatory primary schools in Georgia of their tax-exempt status and state benefits.

First, let’s turn to the historical precedent for this move. The Internal Revenue Service in 1970 initiated a policy that tax-exempt statuses would no longer be conferred on private educational institutions that discriminated on the basis of race. At the time, Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, prohibited the admission of applicants that were in interracial relationships, banned students from marrying a person of another race, and punished those that advocated for interracial marriage. The IRS determined that Bob Jones’ policies ran counter to the underlying policy aims of tax-exempt law— to bolster charitable organizations that benefit of society. Subsequently, it stripped Bob Jones of its tax privileges.

Bob Jones challenged the IRS’ action and sued claiming the University’s religious freedom rights were violated. In 1982, the Supreme Court rejected Bob Jones’ claim noting, “racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy.” This fundamental principle, of course, had been true of public schools since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The Bob Jones decision further expanded this basic tenant of the American social contract to private higher education.

In Georgia today, hundreds of religious schools in Georgia ban openly LGBT students. These schools are operating segregated institutions that deprive young LGBT Georgians access to quality education. Discriminatory schools impose harmful stigmatization on these young people and demonstrate to their peers an unacceptable level of tolerance for anti-LGBT animus. As LGBT children are often vulnerable to adverse mental health issues stemming from exposure to bias, humiliation, and ridicule, these private schools inflict a tremendous amount of untold harm. Swift action on the part of the IRS to strip anti-LGBT schools of tax benefits is warranted.

Worse yet, well over 100 of these private schools recieve state government collected scholarship funds. In this sense, the government advances anti-LGBT religious schools’ discriminatory policies by doubly subsidizing them. In 2015 and in wake of Obergefell, this simply cannot stand. While it would be condemnable in any event that a school would ban a class of persons from its student body, the government must never fund it. Full stop. The Georgia General Assembly must pass legislation next session prohibiting the use of government sponsored scholarship funds to discriminatory institutions.


  1. The way to change this is by changing the churches and schools from within, not the heavy hand of the IRS.

    Give the new SCOTUS ruling time to sink in, and I’m sure you’ll see more LGBT friendly schools looking to bring in those families.

    Perhaps you can temper your fervor by then, and not allow it to cause you to force scenarios that are not issues into your narrow world view, just because you don’t pray that way.

  2. Robbie says:

    I’m sure the “religious liberty” screamers will be out in force in just a few minutes (Hi, Sen. McKoon!). What they will get wrong is that each of these schools’ religious liberty is well protected and completely safe. They have every right to be as disgusting and discriminatory as they want – they just don’t have the right to do it with our tax dollars.

    • It’s been shown it’s a public service to educate our children. That’s exactly what’s going on here – educating our children. The real blasphemy is that tax dollars meant to educate children don’t follow them to their school.

      That’s the tax payer waste – the excess capacity in the public school, where it should have been appropriated to wherever the child ends up.

      • Robbie says:

        Public education is great. I’m a big fan of it, but we’re talking about private schools that take public money.

        Using tax dollars to keep certain types of people out just because you don’t like them is pretty disgusting and should be illegal.

        • And there is no data to show schools are “keeping certain types of people out” is happening, does happen, or will happen.

          It’s a stretch, just like this article. A forced narrative, and a conflation of very real policy concerns around educating our children, and beating back the fear of things that are different.

    • John Konop says:


      I am not gay so I have never walked in your shoes…..what made me verbally supportive of granting gay people equal rights was when I read about kids killing themselves, gay bashing…..not right should never be tolerated….With that, it was time for non gay people to speak up…I do think many people have sincere religious questions they are dealing with via the issue….I am all for the separation of church and state…but forcing your life style on people will backfire….This seems to be a bridge to far….I would suggest the high road…You should be celebrating your victory….not creating controversy with people who you disagree with….just my 10 cents…

      • Robbie says:

        I’m not sure what you’re saying. I’m saying that government-funded discrimination should be illegal. That’s it. Is there something else you’re responding to?

        • John Konop says:

          …..government-funded discrimination should be illegal…….

          I am 100 % supportive of your right to marry……but I am not supportive of you forcing religious people to except your life style in their church, school…..while using the IRS as a club….

          • DAinGA says:

            He’s not. He’s merely saying if you wish to have a school that discriminates that it shouldn’t be tax exempt. Every cent it gets to save by being tax exempt is basically funding from the state. They want to keep their principals intact, then don’t be state exempt.

            Now, having said that, without actual proof that LGBT students are kept out of these schools it’s a difficult argument to make. Schools don’t come right out and say “no homos” but they used coded language like “we adhere to biblical principals”. Given this, families who know their kids are gay don’t bother to apply. So is that defacto discrimination? Not sure.

            • blakeage80 says:

              “Every cent it gets to save by being tax exempt is basically funding from the state.” This is another fundamental disagreement. That money is earned from an employer by and employee. That employee then gives money to a private school. It is never ‘tax payer dollars’. It’s never your tax money. So, these exemptions are not “funding from the state

            • TheEiger says:

              “They want to keep their principals intact, then don’t be state exempt.” Ahhh, what a lovely version of America we are coming to know. Keep you principals or keep your tax exempt status and educate kids. Now we are going to ask the IRS to determine who’s faith is right or wrong. Yay!!

  3. Charlie says:

    If the school is accepting public money, the students should be accepted. I don’t believe that’s what we’re talking about here.

    If the school is teaching from a strict interpretation of their religious beliefs, I don’t understand why a parent would want to be sending a LGBT student there, nor why the student would want to attend. But let’s presume that the student should be accepted and allowed to attend. I can agree with that.

    Is the next step then to tell the religious institution that they can only teach the parts of the Bible in a way that doesn’t make the LGBT student uncomfortable? Because then we’ve crossed my line down the slippery slope of tolerance, and tilted the scales in using government to tell people what they’re allowed to believe with respect to their religion. This is no longer about “tolerance” or coexistence. It’s about one side winning and another losing.

    So with the three topics above in mind, what/where’s the end game?

    • anthonymkreis says:

      I agree educational curriculum should not be part of the calculus. And I personally would not encourage LGBT students go to schools where they would feel unsafe or uncomfortable. But schools should not be allowed to deprive students and parents of that choice. Often what happens is that high school kids come out after they’ve already been enrolled in the school for years and so the choice for them is hiding their identity from everyone or leaving the school, their friends, and starting over. That’s not a choice they should have to make. It is 100% about access to the institution and 0% about the actual education.

      • Charlie says:

        OK, we’re mostly in general agreement on purpose/outcome.

        Once the power of government tax exemption is used to enforce this, what is to stop the next step down this slope, where someone “less reasonable” may not agree with us, and decide the LGBT students need protections from ideas that contradict with their identity?

            • Boredatwork says:

              Yes, but that’s the way free speech works. If you put out an idea others find offensive, they have the right to call you out on it. The First Amendment does not protect you from criticism for your speech; it just guarantees the right to engage in it.

      • “But schools should not be allowed to deprive students and parents of that choice.”

        I’m missing it – what choice?

        In one hand, you reference kids who are already enrolled, who want to come out.

        And then jump straight to “access to the institution” – are you saying then that there is a widespread policy of non-secular schools expelling students because they are gay?

        • Okay, so the paper sited in that NYT article (This is the correct link, as the NYT has a broken one:

          Does cite some pretty specific instances of schools that have a student conduct manual that lay out homosexual activities, along wiht other things, as violations. It did not actually study the disciplinary or rate of expulsion for that reason. That being said, I’m sure there is a leaning.

          However, that paper and organization’s larger goal is to end the SSO program all together, not just because chrisitian schools have these provisions in their policies. If they didn’t have them in their policies, they would still be calling for this program to end.

          The focus here, though should be on the child – the SSO program is focused on allowing parents who want to have their kids attend this school, for whatever reason, to have the financial means to do so.

          For instance, if your kid is gay, and has been bullied at the public school, and you’re not getting anywhere as a parent, these private schools may be your only chance at improving your child’s life. That’s really what the SSO program is about, and it has nothing to do with being gay. It has everything to do with giving parents options.

          Your post here ignores that basic tenant, just so you can cast christians as bigots.

          • So I re-read my post, and wanted to apologize for that last line – I feel there is some common ground to making sure kids have a supportive and nurturing environment in which to learn.

            Churches, though, are usually just that. To make them change their code of conduct would be one thing, but I also think the larger conversation would be to make sure being gay isn’t viewed as being immoral.

    • Robbie says:

      There’s always the issue of a kid not knowing they’re gay or not being openly gay until they’re older, and when they do finally come out, they’re kicked out of the school.

      I have no problem with a private, religious school teaching anything they want – they have that right. I have a problem with it being subsidized by the government.

      If we knew of a school that still taught that it was their religious right to exclude a certain race AND used government funds, would we still be as worried about “tolerance”, the “slippery slope” and the “end game?” I don’t think we would.

    • saltycracker says:

      I’d suspect the poster’s end game is to remove tax exempt status from religious exercises, revenue, donations, gifts, properties…….
      Most call that government intrusion as he calls it subsidizing.

  4. jpm says:

    To complicate the question raised – should public universities lose their government funding when convicted of descrimination against Christians or other religions? Other examples are available and easily found.

    This goes to the heart of Robbie’s argument; “I have a problem with it being subsidized by the government”.

    • John Konop says:

      Your examples do not make sense….If I hire you for a job, your job is to serve all my customers…could you imagine chaos if a person works at a restaurant and said they will not sever alcohol via my religion….the government told me I had to keep them…Will not work a gay wedding…Muslim wedding, Jewish wedding, Christian wedding… are advocating total chaos….

      The case you cited are fairly simple concept….if a gay kids at a public school needs help….they should get same service opportunities as a straight kid….if an employee/student… you cannot fulfill this, than work and or study at a religious school…As I said, religious schools should not punished by the IRS….Same in business….if you cannot serve alcohol…I should not be forced to keep you on….

      • jpm says:

        John – The title of the piece is Strip Descriminatory Tax Exemptions Now.

        With respect; the question I asked is that if we strip tax exemption from private schools because of a religious belief, do we also strip funding of tax dollars for public schools that discriminate against religion?

        The question makes a lot of sense regarding use of tax dollars for educational purposes, or when to withhold same.

  5. Bob Jones University was stripped of their tax exemption, which was directly given to them by the federal tax code.

    In Georgia and several other states, a person or corporation donates to an approved scholarship fund and that person or corporation receives a tax benefit. The scholarship funds give money to students in the form of scholarships which they give to the school of their choice. No government money is involved so how is the government blessing discrimination?

    You’re comparing apples to oranges.

    Churches will lose their tax exemption soon enough so most Churches will shut their doors and many of these schools will go away. So why worry?

  6. TheEiger says:

    And so it begins. Any group that has a tax exempt status on religious grounds will now be thrown under the bus.

  7. “It is time we strip discriminatory primary schools in Georgia of their tax-exempt status and state benefits.”

    In this country we have decided that religious and charitable organizations should be exempt from taxes. We as a country have decided the servicse they provide are valuable to the community and thus they deserve this special treatment. If we are going to decide that religious-backed schools are now discriminatory in light of Friday’s ruling and thus no longer serve a valuable public service, we are indeed on a slippery slope. Call it fear mongering if you wish but if Christian schools must lose their tax exemption or comply, then every religious institution will face the same choice.

    The median size of a Church in America is 75. 59% of all Churches have fewer than 99 attendees. Another 35% of Churches have between 100-499 attendees. There are 282,000 churches of these sizes in America. Many of these run and subsidize religious schools. If you take away the tax exemption of these schools and then these Churches, you for all intents and purposes shut them down.

    • TheEiger says:

      “If you take away the tax exemption of these schools and then these Churches, you for all intents and purposes shut them down.” That is exactly Anthony’s plan. First schools, then business, then charities and eventually Churches that don’t conform to this recent ruling.

        • Anthony,

          I don’t attribute any ill will to you. However, the impact of taking away the tax exemption from schools whose faith instructs their belief on this issue will run many, perhaps most of them out of business.

          • anthonymkreis says:

            I know you don’t. That’s why I like you, Buzz.

            I’m sure this is the beginning of a longer conversation of these issues. But I am very much concerned about students’ educational and mental well-being, particularly those who are not simply looking to enroll in a school but who are already there.

            • If I ran a school I would accept anyone who agreed to behave well. However, many of these schools are affiliated with Churches. To be a member of the Church and thus attend the school you must agree with their statement of faith.

              I don’t think it’s fair to force them to choose between keeping their tax exemption and changing their beliefs or staying with their beliefs and going out of business. Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a majority of Americans and most Judges disagreed with me.

        • ATLguy says:

          I recall the New York Times’ claim that Lawrence v. Texas would in no way lead to the push for marriage. Which, of course, it did. I remember when the marriage advocates stated that marriage would in no way lead to the push to polyamory. Which, of course, it has. And I also note that your WSJ article makes no mention of organizations losing their tax-exempt status.

          With the social left, the goal posts always shift. Each victory only serves as the lead-in to the next fight. So pardon me if I choose to be skeptical of the “what, who us?” claims that are always discarded soon after.

        • TheEiger says:

          Please forgive me when I say I don’t believe you. The title of your article is “Strip Discriminatory Tax Exemptions Now.”

          Do you think that a Baptist Church that refuse to marry a same sex couple is discriminatory?

    • blakeage80 says:

      A week ago I would have passed this off as trolling. I would like to point out that this is not at all about access at all as AMK claims in an above comment. Private schools are harder to get into and people have to choose (and pay) to go there instead of the freely available public education. At a lot of these places are codes of conduct agreed upon before the prospective student is allowed to attend. They can say anything from ‘don’t do drugs or listen to Rock n’ Roll’ to ‘don’t fornicate’ (which, of course covers both homo and hetero pre-marital sex) When any student violates any part of the code, they are subject to punishment. What AMK has written is what a lot of anti-religious people have wanted for a long time. They want to hurt institutions (and people) that don’t openly and proudly embrace a sinful lifestyle. The intolerance of gay rights supporters is just really boiling to the surface after Friday’s ruling. There are a lot of Canadians and Europeans that know exactly what I am talking about.

        • blakeage80 says:

          LOL. No, I merely meant that the argument to strip institutions of tax exempt status has been given a lot more weight since Friday.

      • Robbie says:

        Actually, it seems to me that what’s being said here is that these schools should absolutely have the right to teach, govern, and dictate morals as they see fit. But, they don’t have the right to do that with public tax dollars. I fully believe that private, religious schools have the right to do just about anything they want. But I don’t want them using my money to do it and they shouldn’t have the right to. Let the people who’ve chosen that kind of lifestyle finance itself. Would you feel comfortable with a private school that preached that Christianity was evil using tax dollars to fund its mission? I doubt you would.

        I also find quite a lot of humor in the phrase “the intolerance of gay rights supporters”, as though it would be noble for me to sit back and tolerate someone telling me that I’m quite literally destroying the world, of the devil, sick, demented, a child molester, and that I’m a danger to society. I refuse to tolerate those things and for anyone to even insinuate that I should is beyond absurd. Do we tell racial minorities to “tolerate” the KKK? Do we tell women to “tolerate” misogyny?

        • blakeage80 says:

          We are talking about tax breaks, which given to lot of organizations for lots of reasons. We are not talking about your tax money going to private schools. These schools are simply being allowed to keep more of their own money.

          As for the hate you have experienced, that’s terrible. I’ve been called a baby blood drinker, intolerant, unloving, backward, hypocrite…and so on. Yet, I do not seek to destroy the people and institutions that called me those things.

  8. northside101 says:

    “And what is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus.

    And what is “discrimination?”

    It is pretty well-known that the Catholic Church—and many fundamentalists—do not ordain women clergy. For Catholics, it goes back to the idea that the priest is an image of Christ, who was a male, and the centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic worship. For fundamentalists, it may have to do with St. Paul’s words about prohibiting women from preaching or teaching. So if a Catholic or fundamentalist school is tied to a church who believe only men are called to the clerical life, is that school discriminatory? What if the school in question gives admission preference to their own faith—discriminatory? What about schools that may be single-sex? Is it “discriminatory” if such schools hold traditional Christian views on sexual conduct? Is there a distinction to be made between a persons’ orientation and behavior?

  9. rosco says:

    I’ve read this site for several years. This is probably the stupidest and most short-sighted post that I’ve ever read. A few comments are in order as such:

    1) The author advocates stripping private religious schools of tax exempt status because they are anti-LGBT. That isn’t about protecting LGBT rights, it is about imposing the author’s particular morals via financial blackmail onto non-profit organizations. Does the author really think it will convince religious conservatives to change their minds? And if you crave acceptance of your lifestyle so much that you have to have the government blackmail your opponents, might this suggest you are either insecure in your convictions or fall out undemocratic in your politics?

    2) Why should the state impose the author’s moral beliefs in the first place? Why not instead impose those of religious conservatives who see LGBT activists as immoral and anti-Christian (and the author seems to prove their point on this last one)? Keep in mind that religious conservatives are 30%-40% of the nation’s population, which is a lot more than gays. And religious conservatives are taxpayers with rights too. Why should their tax money go to schools (public or private) or non-profits that are pro-LGBT and thus promote immoral behavior in their eyes?

    3) Is it really a good idea to politicize non-profit status in this fashion and have the government impose a particular moral view of human sexuality? Sure, the LGBT movement and the left are in ascendency now. But anyone who has even briefly studied American History knows that the political fortunes of political parties, movements and religious groups ebb and flow over time. Eventually, the right will be on the rise. And we could even have a religious revival in the future. Do the author honestly think if the left uses tax exempt status against religious conservatives now that the shoe won’t eventually be on the other foot? You better hope that the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, liberal schools and churches etc. can take whatever you dish out on religious conservatives, because you can bet it will eventually come back on their heads, maybe even double fold.

    4) It is ironic that the LGBT movement seems to model itself on the civil rights movement. Many African-Americans see homosexuality and gay marriage the exact same way as do white Evangelicals. In other words, if what the author advocates were to be implemented, it would devastate some of the very churches (African-American) and religious institutions that played such a key role in the 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement.

    5) That brings me to my final point. What the author advocates is really, really dumb politically. Many moderates and libertarians would find it excessive. It would also split the Democratic party as it would endanger many African-American churches. And white Evangelicals, as well as other religious conservatives (Hispanics, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, etc.) would crawl over broken glass to vote for the most right-wing Republican they could in the next election. This would be amplified here in Georgia as African-Americans and white Evangelicals are demographically large groups, larger than the national average. Hell would freeze over before the Georgia General Assembly even considered what this post proposes.

    Gay rights advocates won a big victory on Friday. I suggest they take a “live and let live” approach and now go about living their lives in peace instead of taking the culture wars to a nuclear level. They have as much to risk in this as do religious conservatives, not to mention our Republic.

  10. jiminga says:

    Why don’t we just ban religion altogether? Liberals should stop chipping away at our freedoms and just come out of the closet and admit their goal.

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