In the aftermath of conservative backlash over Beto O’Rourke agreeing to lift the tax-exemption on churches that oppose same-sex marriage, Pete Buttigieg is distancing himself from the comments.

In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, Buttigieg said O’Rourke was wrong to respond in the affirmative when asked if as president he’d tax churches, schools and charities against same-sex marriage.

Declining to criticize O’Rourke directly, Buttigieg instead suggested his fellow candidate was unaware of the full implications of his remarks.

“I agree that anti-discrimination law ought to be applied to all institutions, but the idea that you’re going to strip churches of their tax-exempt status if they haven’t found their toward blessing same-sex marriage — I’m not sure he understood the implications of what he was saying,” Buttigieg said.

O’Rourke said he agreed with the idea during the recent LGBT town hall on LGBT issues in response to question from moderator Don Lemon.

Buttigieg pointed out the proposal would defy principles of the First Amendment and penalize many religions, including mosques.

“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, but also, because of separation of church and state, are acknowledged as non-profits in this country,” Buttigieg said.

Under the Equality Act, anti-LGBT discrimination would be prohibited against workers at religious institutions — so long as they aren’t in ministerial positions — but churches could still maintain their policies excluding LGBT people.

Buttigieg relayed support for legislation along those lines in explaining the right balance for anti-LGBT non-discrimination laws and religious freedom.

“So if we want to talk about anti-discrimination law for a school or an organization, absolutely they should not be able to discriminate,” Buttigieg said. “But going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers or religious facilities in this country, I think that’s just going to deepen the divisions that we’re already experiencing.”

Buttigieg, a gay presidential candidate, concluded that anger would inappropriate for “moving in the right direction on LGBTQ rights, which is obviously extremely important to me personally.”

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade. 

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