Respect for Marriage Act doesn’t revoke church tax-exempt status

The Respect for Marriage Act makes it clear that the IRS cannot revoke churches’ tax-exempt status if they don’t allow same-sex marriage, contrary to online claims.

Congress passed the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) on Thursday, December 8, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The law ensures that the federal government recognizes marriages regardless of race, ethnicity or sex, and requires all states to recognize marriages legally performed in other states.

Lawmakers introduced the bill after a unanimous opinion by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health, a ruling that overturned federal abortion rights, raised questions about the law. legitimacy of previous court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage.

In the weeks before the law was passed, some Everyone Online announced that the RFMA allows the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that do not allow same-sex marriage.

A VERIFY viewer on TikTok also asked the group about the bill’s provisions regarding the tax-exempt status of churches.


Does the Respect for Marriage Act say that the IRS can revoke tax-exempt status for churches that oppose same-sex marriage?



This is wrong.

No, the Respect for Marriage Act does not say that the IRS can revoke tax-exempt status for churches that oppose same-sex marriage.


The text of the RFMA makes it clear that the IRS cannot revoke the tax-exempt status of other religious or charitable organizations if they refuse to perform same-sex marriage.

Section 7(a) of the bill says that “nothing in this act” may be used to “deny or alter any interest, right, or status of an individual or other qualifying entities,” including “exempt status” or tax treatment.”

The IRS says churches and other religious organizations are “generally exempt from income tax and other favorable treatment under tax law.”

A bipartisan group of senators added language about tax-exempt status through an amendment to the bill. In a statement released on November 15, before the statements were shared on social media, the senators said in part that “the fact that a church, university or nonprofit organization otherwise eligible for an exemption from the unrelated marriage tax, so its status will not be affected by this law.”

The same-sex marriage protection bill also does not apply to private businesses or organizations, such as churches. They apply only to state and federal governments and government officials.

The RFMA’s text says it applies to people “acting under State law.” Dale Carpenter, a professor and constitutional law expert at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, told VERIFY that it’s a legal expression referring to the government or government officials.

There have been many other claims about the RFMA besides this one, including that it requires churches to hold same-sex weddings or provide services for these ceremonies. That’s not true, Carpenter said.

The bill says that “in accordance with the First Amendment of the Constitution,” religious nonprofits are not “mandated to provide services, lodging, advantages, facilities, goods or privilege for the celebration or celebration of the marriage.”

“Any refusal under this subsection to provide services, lodging, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action. ,” the bill reads.

For a more in-depth explanation of what the bill does and doesn’t do, click here.

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