The Corner

A ‘Severe . . . Confiscatory’ Tax on Religious Freedom

“Sebelius’s taxman is coming. Sebelius’s taxman is coming.”

That was the rallying cry of Jim Sensenbrenner on Tuesday in the House of Representatives, where along with his chief co-sponsor Diane Black, he announced the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act, meant to be “a follow-on” to the recently concluded Fortnight for Freedom called for by the U.S. Catholic bishops, focusing on prayer and education about religious liberty.  

The Freedom Tax Repeal Act seeks to “shock people into how confiscatory the taxes imposed would be for those who choose not to violate their consciences are,” Representative Sensenbrenner tells me.

“What has not been discussed” in most of the debate over the Department of Health and Human Services contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drug mandate, Sensenbrenner says, “is the tax that is imposed upon those that fail to comply with that mandate, either through religious objections or moral grounds. Those taxes are severe; they are confiscatory.”

“It is $100 per employee per day,” Sensenbrenner says, spelling out the taxing implications out. “So, a religious institution that, say, has a church and an elementary school beside it that has 50 employees total, which include the administrative and maintenance personnel, end up being taxed $36,500 per employee per year. Or the 50-employee institution would have to pay a tax of $1,825,000 per year, every year. 

“I’ve got a lot of Lutheran schools in Wisconsin, as well as Catholic ones,” Sensenbrenner, a self-described Anglican Catholic, tells me.  

Sensenbrenner is frank about the prospects for the Freedom Tax Repeal Act: “it depends on what kind of uproar there is around the country.” He looks particularly to “churchs that sponsor schools” and those who depend on them, have benefitted from them, and otherwise support them and their good fruits for civil society.  

Despite these taxes kicking in in August, this isn’t going anywhere unless “there are enough people around the country between now and Labor Day” who insist Congress do something to protect those who cannot in good conscience obey the HHS mandate, who do not have the money to pay the Religious Freedom Tax, as his legislation describes it.

For the moment, the cry is: “Sebelius’s taxman is coming. Sebelius’s taxman is coming.” An effort to spread the word on the crippling punitive reality that Americans who object to buying insurance plans that provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-drug coverage face because of the Affordable Care Act.

“This is a gross abuse of the taxing power of the government,” Sensenbrenner says. And there “has got to be a grassroots uproar” about it in the coming weeks.”

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