A Republican state representative from Michigan plans to introduce legislation to strip away tax exemptions from churches that don’t preach Christianity. He also wants to make it illegal for Michiganders to watch pornography.
MICHIGAN—Republican state Rep. Josh Schriver is facing criticism after he voiced plans to introduce legislation that would change the way churches are taxed in Michigan—namely by removing exemptions for churches that don’t preach about Schriver’s preferred religion.
In a recent appearance on a right-wing podcast, Schriver said he’s “working on a policy” that would make a tax distinction between Christian churches and those that preach other faiths.
“I haven’t introduced it yet, but it’s actually to really focus on making a distinction between the church—the church of Jesus Christ—and this, quote unquote, Church of Satan,” Schriver said. “You really have an issue where they’re seen as equal in the eyes of the state, and that doesn’t seem right to me for many, many legitimate reasons. And so removing tax exempt status from non-theistic churches such as the Church of Satan, I think is very, very well in order.”
Schriver’s idea to strip tax exemptions from “non-theistic churches,” as he described them, was reportedly inspired by a display erected last year by the Satanic Temple on the Capitol lawn.
It’s unclear, however, whether Schriver is familiar with the US Constitution—which includes protections for religious liberties in the First Amendment that bar lawmakers from passing laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” Courts have repeatedly interpreted that to mean that the government cannot establish an official religion or unduly favor one faith over another.
Legislation to target churches of certain faiths, or to give preference to Christian churches over others, would likely be ruled a direct violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Still, Schriver said he wants to test the waters.
“There’s many examples of us looking at our First Amendment and how it doesn’t really protect against obscenity,” Schriver said, also revealing “another policy to make pornographic images illegal” because “there’s no need for moral and religious people to indulge in certain things.”
“We have a duty to lead people as representatives who are appointed by God to make sure that we have a state that is not just good, not just great, but godly,” Schriver added. “I work for God and not for man. And so at the end of the day, I answer to one person, and that’s Jesus Christ.”
Democrats lost their 56-54 advantage in the state House this year, but are expected to regain a majority after special elections are held in April. In the meantime, Schriver’s legislation—if he ever actually introduces it—would be unlikely to ever be assigned to a committee. And even if it did advance, it would almost certainly fail in the current 54-54 deadlock in the state House.
Still, some progressive activists are concerned about the rise of extreme, right-wing sentiments among Republican state lawmakers. Schriver was also among five Republican lawmakers who voted last year against legislation that sought to protect Michigan children from sexual abuse—namely by outlawing any form of child marriage across the state.
“It’s time for Republican leadership to also start asking questions,” said Sam Inglot, executive director at Progress Michigan. “Statements like those made by Rep. Schriver raise serious concerns about possible threats to already marginalized religious communities. Silence from supposed party leaders in the face of extremism is not only cowardice, but complicity.”
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