The National Organization for Marriage plans to air this ad in Iowa and other states as part of a religious liberty campaign.  I had not heard of this organization until now, but it appears they are getting a lot of coverage.


They provide background information for each person that speaks in the commercial.  They also provided a link to the Washington Post which verifies that faith groups are losing their rights in the face of this agenda.

HT for the video: Evangelicals Anonymous

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  1. Let me note that that's not actually background information on the people speaking, as the people speaking in the ad are actors. (Don't take my word for it, it's in the small print.)

    And you should go beyond NOM's own website for information on the cases that they represent, as they (understandably, as an advocacy) pick and choose the facts that they present. For example, in the New Jersey case, the tax exemption that they group was denied was not some normal exemption or even one based on being a church group — it was the state's “Green Acres” program, which gives them a special tax benefit for making the property in question open to all. So that case wasn't about “you can't discriminate”, it was about “you can take money from the state and then not live up to the terms”, something I think we can all understand. Don't want to open your property up to everyone? Fine, then don't say you're going to do so and collect money on that basis.

    And of course the case was not based on the legalization of gay marriage, as New Jersey did not and does not have legal gay marriage. Nor, for that matter, was the California case based on gay marriage, as marriage was not a question there and the law it was based on predates gay marriage in California by many years.

  2. Yeah Nat I understand that they are actors, but the background info was behind the cases they represented. I also understand those issues were unrelated to gay marriage. It seems that the commercial was more about religious liberty being eroded in light of gay rights litigation.

    Looking at the NPR story about the NJ, it was a civil union case, and it was a clear matter of religious conviction v. gay rights agenda. There needs to be a provision in the law. Also, let's be clear they weren't getting money from the state – they were receiving a tax exemption as many faith-based groups do.

    So who is next? A church? Churches don't have the right to tell same-sex couples you can't use our facilities? They are non-profit and receive tax exemptions, should that get revoked so they have to pay property tax? If you believe this then you hold an unreasonable, radical position. Not vice versa.

  3. “There needs to be a provision in the law.”

    What provision? That if you take a special tax break for opening your space for everyone, but still keep out anyone one you want, so long as you claim a religious reason for it?

    They aren't, of course, framing this as a general “religious liberty” argument yet – they are only trying to frame it as discrimination against one group. If religious liberty is their cause, we can expect them to proclaim special religious rights to discriminate against Catholics, Jews, blacks, the infirm, or anyone else they can find an excuse under their religion to discriminate against — or we can see that they are really only interested in stopping the homosexuals, and are using “religious liberty” as an excuse. Frankly, I've not measured NOM carefully enough to judge which is their real cause and which is the feint. I suspect their true bent is the anti-homosexual one; they've put more visible effort into arguing at overturning same-sex marriage laws than at having religious liberty laws put in place. But it could go the other way.

    There is certainly a libertarian argument for removing civil rights laws that restrict private entities. It is much harder, however, to claim that this should be a special right for the religious, or that it should only deal with the protection of homosexuals as opposed to other groups.

  4. Well this is a religious issue since the organization in question is faith-based and believes that homosexuality is a sin and same-sex marriage (or in this case civil unions) is wrong.

    It is quite simply a First Amendment and freedom of association issue. Religious organizations can and should be free to deny access to groups that contradict their religious beliefs. For instance, I don't believe a Mosque is well within their rights to deny usage to a Christian group. It is private property and the fact they open it up to the public doesn't change that fact.

    The basis of the lawsuit had nothing to do with the tax break. That was a punitive measure. What would the court have done if there wasn't any such thing? Fine them?

    This ruling, and it's law is unconstitutional if it does not respect the First Amendment and I will be surprised if it isn't overturned on appeal.

  5. FWIW: Mosques and churches are generally free to deny entrace or use of their facilities to anyone they choose. However, in the Ocean Grove case, the group accepted funds for the pavilion from the state's Green Acres Open Space Program and that came with concessions. Oops. That took the case out of the First amendment/freedom of association sphere.

  6. Add: The organization has since changed its rules for the use of the pavillion and will no longer take state money or breaks for the building's upkeep. Future suits will not work.

  7. “Religious organizations can and should be free to deny access to groups that contradict their religious beliefs.”

    Which is fine — but then they shouldn't simultaneously ask for a special benefit for doing what they're unwilling to do.

    “The basis of the lawsuit had nothing to do with the tax break. That was a punitive measure.”

    Again, Shane, let me suggest that you read up on this somewhere beyond the conservative sites. The removal of tax exemption for the pavilion was not the result of a lawsuit, but a decision by the state governmental agency in charge of the Green Acres program in accord with the findings of the Division of Civil Rights in regard to the discrimination; the only lawsuit involved in the tax ruling was when the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association sued to stop the investigation of their situation.

  8. I was getting my info from NPR which you can hardly call a conservative site.

    I'll give you this – if they knowingly took the tax exemption knowing that it could make them compromise their principles – then they shouldn't have agreed to it.

  9. They may not have seen the possibility at the time. They've since taken corrective action to minimize exposure to future lawsuits.

  10. Not what I'm saying at all.

    I'm talking about using tax exemptions as a way of hindering free speech.

    I think it's ridiculous to think that non-profit organizations should pay taxes. They don't make a profit. People who donate to those organizations should expect that the money the donate is going to help the organization, not fill government coffers.

  11. This isn't a hinderance of free speech. It's a limitation on action – the Ocean Grove folks are still allowed to believe as they wish and state their beliefs. They just can't limit access and get the tax benefit — that's an action, not speech.

    The donations do help the organization – property taxes are not coming off of income, so the additional donation is additional money for the group to work with. Having said that, the Ocean Grove organization is not running primarily off of donated money. Less than a quarter of their 2007 income was donations. More came off of rental income, and the largest chunk (37%) came off of entertainment revenue.

  12. Sorry, but I cannot conflate “freedom of religion” with “right to get a government benefit without living up to the terms.” In fact, it's quite the opposite – if a group were free to get the Green Acres benefits while barring, say, Mormons from their property (on some belief-based basis), that would be a government program being used to discriminate against Mormons. It would be the government support of discrimination.

  13. No it isn't. The property is there's, not the government's.

    Don't forget who owns it. If it was owned by the state of New Jersey, fine, but it's not.

    And I think that would be perfectly acceptable, and vice versa if it were a Mormon property.

    If you reply to this – start a new thread.

  14. Shane: “If you reply to this – start a new thread.

    There is an issue of entanglement of goverment with religion. They took the money and consequently were bound by the conditions. If they didn't take the money and were clearer about the use of the location, it wouldn't have been an issue. Note that the second case against the group was dismissed because that incident happened *after* the group lost exemption (for not living up the to the open access stipulated with the funds) and took the pavillion completely private.

  15. Thanks for starting a new thread… the comment posts get really, really narrow otherwise.

    You said, “they took the money?” Whose money did they take? It is a tax exemption, not a tax credit. It's getting to keep their own money. I'll have to look at this camp, if they are not a 501(c)3 religious non-profit then I'll admit my point is a moot one.

    If they are, however, a tax law that violates “freedom of association” has constitutional problems when dealing with religious non-profits. I'm curious as to how they are incorporated. In Iowa, if you are a religious non-profit, you don't pay property tax period. There isn't an additional tax exemption.

    When ahead and looked – – they are, or at least they are claiming to be. So what's this “Green Acres” tax exemption and why would a non-profit that should already have property tax exemption have to gain by this.

    Unless New Jersey makes non-profits pay property tax which to me is ridiculous (whether they are faith-based or not).

  16. I don't see what's ridiculous about having nonprofits pay property taxes — and Ocean Grove makes an excellent example why. It's not as if we're talking about a hospital, a church, or some similar thing where we expect a non-businesslike public benefit to accrue. They own -all the land- in Ocean Grove. They own all the houses there. They're building a hotel, more commercial buildings, and so on. If they're not paying for the government services to residents that property taxes normally provide, who is?

  17. Statement from the NJ Division on Civil Rights – Bernstein v. OGCMA findings:

    In addition, U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. has reported that the group has taken local, state and federal funds for buildings, boardwalk and beach repairs while at the time representing that the sites were open for the public.

    Regarding tax-exempt status: New Jersey has a complicated history but basically, not all the property owned by a non-profit organization is necessarily tax exempt. Building and immediate grounds used exclusively (or fundamentally) for religious worship seem to be exempt from property taxes but open, shared purpose areas may not be (such as general use beach property). The boardwalk, pavillion and beach property at Ocean Grove were not exempted. However, the organization applied for exemption (and funds) using the Green Acres program under the claim that the facilities and grounds were open for public use and enjoyment. After the organization demonstrated that the pavillion was not open to the public (by declining a civil union ceremony and subsequently changing its rules about use), it lost the exempt status. Note that tax exempt status remains for the beach and boardwalk, in part because the organization has not indicated that use of those features are restricted.

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