A new bill in the California legislature could take away tax exemptions for youth groups that ban members or leaders based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion.
Introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, and LGBT rights group Equality California, SB 323 was created to pressure the Boy Scouts of America to allow homosexual scouts and leaders, or lose its tax exempt status. The Boy Scouts have been under fire lately for its long-standing policy of prohibiting homosexuals as scout leaders. Last month, Scout leaders announced they would consider allowing each troop to decide its own policy but delayed a decision on the issue until May.
“SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws,” Lara said in a statement.
But Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, said it is the groups and their religious convictions that are being discriminated against. The bill specificly targets the Boy Scouts, which has established itself as a religious organization, as well as the Young Men Christian Association, better known as the YMCA.
“[The bill is] an extreme example of intolerance to a wide diversity of differing religious beliefs and convictions held by private benevolent non-profit organizations,” he said.
Other groups covered would include the Special Olympics, 4-H, Pop Warner, Future Farmers of Americas, Little League, and youth sports in general. The bill further references private schools and vaguely-defined “youth groups.”
If passed, these organizations would no longer receive exemptions from state corporate taxes and taxes on items they sell. They also would be required to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income.
Because the bill will result in large tax increases for the non-profits, it requires two-thirds approval in both the Senate and Assembly. California Democrats, which are often more liberal than other states, gained that supermajority in November.
“If they are successful in this … then the next step is to try to strip away tax exemption from churches as well,” Dacus said. “It is part of the radical homosexual rights movement, it’s to punish and silence those who have a religious belief that does not embrace and accept homosexuality.”