South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg rebutted his Democratic primary challenger Beto O’Rourke on Sunday after the former Texas congressman stated that churches that do not support same-sex marriage should lose their tax-exempt status.
“I agree that anti-discrimination law ought to be applied to all institutions, but the idea you are going to strip churches of their tax exempt status if they have not found their way toward blessing same sex marriage, I’m not sure he understands the implications of what he’s saying,” Buttigieg told Jake Tapper during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“That means going to war, not only with churches, but with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do,” he continued. “But also because of the separation of church and state are acknowledged as nonprofits in this country.”
Pete Buttigieg says he disagrees with fellow 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke on using tax-exempt status to reinforce anti-discrimination laws with religious institutions: “I think that’s just going to deepen the divisions that we’re already experiencing.” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/8DOR9yZRpL
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) October 13, 2019
O’Rourke received widespread backlash after he revealed on Thursday during CNN’s LGBT town hall event that he would penalize religious institutions that adhere to their own religious texts by denying them tax exemptions under federal law.
“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,” O’Rourke said at the time. “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.”
“If we want to talk about anti-discrimination law for a school or an organization, absolutely,” Buttigieg said. “They should not be able to discriminate.”
“But going after the tax exception of churches, Islamic centers or other religious facilities in this country, I think that is just going to deepen the divisions that we’re experiencing at a moment when we’re seeing more and more people motivated often by compassion and by people they love moving in the right direction on LGBTQ rights,” he continued. “Which is obviously extremely important to me personally.”
This is not the first time the two Democratic presidential hopefuls have publicly butted heads. In September, Buttigieg criticized O’Rourke’s signature policy proposal, labeling O’Rourke’s vast anti-gun plan that calls for the federal government to confiscate millions of firearms from law-abiding citizens,a “shiny object.”
Democratic lawmakers have long been defending their gun control agenda against claims that the party wants to take away Americans’ firearms. Accordingly, Buttigieg slammed O’Rourke’s divisive rallying cries as playing directly into the hands of the Republican Party.
While the former Texas congressman has touted both Republican and Democratic disapproval of the program, stating that, “it shows me we are doing something right,” O’Rourke took particular offense to Buttigieg’s condemnation.
“I was really offended by those comments,” O’Rourke said. “I think [Buttigieg] represents a kind of politics that is focused on poll-testing, and focus group-driving, and triangulating, and listening to consultants before you arrive at a position. I think our politics has to be about doing the right thing and saying the right thing.”
During the third quarter of 2019, Buttigieg raised nearly $15 million more than O’Rourke. He is also leading O’Rourke in the polls by more than three points on average.