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It may be time to rethink religious tax exemptions

Recently in The Buffalo News, the Rev. William Gillison, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church, expressed concern that if the legal definition of marriage were broadened beyond narrowly asserted biblical traditions to include our gay brothers and sisters, his “church’s exemption” to only perform heterosexual marriages would one day soon be declared “unconstitutional” by the state.

Gillison forgets that the focus here is the expansion of legal marriage equality, with all of the legal benefits it conveys. That is something only the state, not the church, can grant. And our Constitution provides for the separation of church and state, however much various churches wish to intrude. So we don’t believe that he has any major worries in this arena.

And, if by chance some of his gay congregants do wish to have a church wedding, they might sadly have to seek consecration in another denomination. On the other hand, given the general sentiment of the American people, a time may soon be coming when even Baptist preachers will perform “gay” marriages.

On a more practical level, however, maybe Gillison should worry about churches’, temples’ and mosques’ tax-exempt status in a time when so many parishioners and congregants are struggling to get by, let alone pay the Buffalo user fee. Is it not reasonable to ask if our currently exempt religious institutions should start paying property taxes on all of their buildings, including pastoral residences? After all, perhaps God wouldn’t mind helping out.

Gene & Virginia Grabiner

Buffalo