Warren, Buttigieg denounce O’Rourke's call for punishing churches that reject gay marriage

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. 20 Democratic presidential candidates were split into two groups of 10 to take part in the debate sponsored by CNN held over two nights at Detroit’s Fox Theatre. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg have rejected Beto O’Rourke’s support for stripping churches of their tax exemption if they oppose same-sex marriage.

Warren campaign spokeswoman Saloni Sharma told the Associated Press that while Warren stands “shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community,” she does not support removing tax exemptions for churches that disagree with her views.

“Religious institutions in America have long been free to determine their own beliefs and practices, and she does not think we should require them to conduct same-sex marriages in order to maintain their tax-exempt status,” Sharma told the AP.

Buttigieg, himself in a same-sex marital union, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he felt O’Rourke did not understand “the implications of what he was saying.”

“That means going to war, not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do,” said Buttigieg.

“If we want to talk about anti-discrimination law for a school or an organization, absolutely, they should not be able to discriminate. But going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers or other religious facilities in this country, I think that's just going to deepen the divisions that we're already experiencing.”

During CNN’s LGBT-centered Equality Townhall last week, Democratic candidate O'Rourke told host Don Lemon that he believed that religious entities like colleges, churches and charities should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose gay marriage.

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” stated O’Rourke.

“And so as president, we're going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

For his part, O’Rourke attempted to clarify his comments in an interview with MSNBC in which he said he was not planning to strip the tax exemption of houses of worship opposed to gay marriage unless they provide public services.

“To be specific, the way that you practice your religion, or your faith, within that mosque, or that temple, or that synagogue, or church, that is your business and not the government’s business,” he said.

“But when you are providing services in the public sphere, say higher education or healthcare or adoption services, and you discriminate or deny equal treatment under the law based on someone's skin color or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation, then we have a problem.”

According to Real Clear Politics’ polling average accessed Tuesday morning, O’Rourke is sixth among Democratic presidential hopefuls at 2.6 percent support.

He trails Buttigieg and Senator Kamala Harris of California, each with 5.2 percent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 15.6 percent, Warren at 23.4 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden at 29.4 percent.

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