For 103 years, the Boy Scouts have inspired generations of boys to become men of character. As the mother of three young children, I hope they will grow up embodying the values of responsibility and service that the Boy Scouts work hard to promote. But instead of recognizing its achievements, activists want to punish the organization by undermining its finances.
The California Senate recently passed Senate Bill 323 to revoke the tax-exempt status of charitable youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts that do not adhere to its definition of “values.” It did this even though the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the First Amendment rights of the Boy Scouts to determine its membership.
The Senate’s action sets a dangerous precedent. If liberal politicians can punish a group as well-known as the Boy Scouts, they will surely go after less-prominent groups with which they may disagree.
Imposing taxes on nonprofit organizations to punish their viewpoints or to “encourage” them to change their views is dangerous to liberty. What the Legislature is trying to do in California is eerily similar to what the IRS has done – unfairly targeting groups for invasive tax audits based on their beliefs.
However one may feel about the Boy Scouts, we should all be troubled by the politicization of the tax code. If we allow state tax agencies to judge whether a group is adhering to the worldview of whoever controls the Legislature at the time, we create a very slippery slope.
And, I might add, the Tea Party or any Conservative groups).
If SB323 becomes law, it would not just apply to the Boy Scouts but also to religious schools that have similar policies. If that happens, what is to stop the state from stripping the tax-exempt status of churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship? Would the legislators who voted to target the Boy Scouts favor revoking the tax-exempt status of these groups?
For people in our community who think that what the Senate has done is a good idea, consider this: How would you feel if a conservative state attempted to do the same thing, but this time on groups that are perceived to have liberal viewpoints? What if Kansas started targeting secular nonprofits that “discriminate” against people of faith? What if Texas stripped the tax-exempt status of nonprofit environmental or animal rights organizations? Regardless of the ideology of a legislature’s majority party, using the tax code to penalize groups for their views is wrong and un-American.
In a country as great as ours, we each have the freedom to support or not support any of the thousands of nonprofits that represent a diversity of causes. If we do not agree with a group’s beliefs, we have the choice to not volunteer or donate.
There is still time to stop SB323. It is now pending in the Assembly, where it must pass by a two-thirds vote to reach the governor’s desk. I will vigorously oppose it and do everything I can to convince my colleagues to do the same. We have an opportunity to make it absolutely clear that we should not be punishing groups for the crime of having positions contrary to those held by the political party in power.
Assemblymember Kristin Olsen
12th Assembly District
NorCal Tea Party Coordinator/Chair
Tea Party California Coordinator/Chair