Christians laud decision to exempt Bibles from Trump’s tariff hike on Chinese goods

Row of Chinese Bibles is displayed at the traveling Chinese Bible exhibition in Washington, D.C. The exhibition, titled “Thy Word Is the Truth: The Bible Ministry Exhibition of the Protestant Church in China,” was launched Sept. 28 at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., where it will remain until Oct. 2. | (Photo: The Christian Post / Amanda Winkler)

Christian leaders are hailing the Trump administration's decision to remove Bibles and other religious books from its lists of Chinese goods facing a 10 percent hike in tariffs. 

The office of U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer said Tuesday that the 10 percent tariff hike on Chinese goods starting Sept. 1 won’t affect Bibles, according to multiplereports.

On Tuesday, the USTR released two lists of items that will be subject to tariffs starting Sept. 1 and items in which tariffs will be applied on Dec. 15

"Certain products are being removed from the tariff list based on health, safety, national security and other factors and will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent," the USTR announced Tuesday. Bibles and other religious materials were also removed from the lists. 

"Further ... it was determined that the tariff should be delayed to Dec. 15 for certain articles. Products in this group include, for example, cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors, and certain items of footwear and clothing," the USTR added. 

Christian publishers are also welcoming the development because of how it would affect the production of Bibles.

"For the past several months, there has been great concern among the Christian publishing community that our important work would be threatened by proposed tariff schedules," LifeWay Christian Resources President Ben Mandrell said in a statement.

"This announcement by the U.S. Trade Representative has given us hope that the administration has heard our concern."

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, has been among the organizations petitioning the government to exempt Christian publishers from the looming hikes.

"I am pleased to see today that U.S. tariffs on China will now exempt the Bibles printed in China. This is welcome news for LifeWay and many other publishers and ministries," ERLC President Russell Moore commented on Twitter Tuesday.

Moore told the Baptist Press, "whatever one thinks about trade policy, the Bible should never have been a subject of this sort of taxation. As Christians, we believe the Bible is the Word of God, and is thus central to our lives and mission."

According to CBN, China is the world's largest Bible publisher; U.S. Christian publishers maintain that the impending tariffs would have caused some translations to be too expensive to produce. The Southern Baptist Convention spends 31 percent of its total printing costs in China, the outlet noted.

More than 5.7 million Bibles were sold in 2018, and that number doesn't include Bibles sold directly from publishers to congregations.

"We are pleased that the administration did not include Bibles and other religious books on the first list of products to be subject to the tariffs, and delayed tariffs on children's books until Dec. 15," said Maria A. Pallante, president of the Association of American Publishers, after the administration announced the list of products subject to the additional 10 percent tariffs. 

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