. . . yet. But it could, if the recent Supreme Court health-care ruling is exploited a certain way. So says my friend Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance .

He is concerned, as are others , about the long-range consequences of NFIB v. Sebelius , which reaffirmed the power of Congress to use its power of taxation to influence individual behavior.

Of particular concern, the ruling opens the way to the adoption of measures such as limiting charity tax exemptions to groups that provide direct benefits to the poor and allowing tax deductions only for donors to those groups, proposals that have gained growing support in recent years among some members of Congress and other lawmakers.

This may have consequences for churches, which some people believe aren’t real charities.

And no one has yet mentioned what might happen to organizations that find themselves out of step with a potential consensus favoring same-sex marriage. Will churches that adhere to the traditional teaching regarding marriage at the very least lose their tax-exempt status? That this is a very real fear was one of the arguments in the very chilling Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty .

I’m not arguing that the Chief Justice had these considerations in mind when he wrote his decision, or that critics of the tax-exempt status of churches need the Court’s permission to walk down this path. But the Court’s reaffirmation of the non-revenue purposes to which the tax code can be put offers some cover to those who aspire to the role of “engineer of human souls.”

Articles by Joseph Knippenberg

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