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VA AG tells universities to be more bigoted

The WaPo reports that the attorney general has urged colleges and universities in Virginia to rescind their policies against discrimination against gays.

You might think the Post got it wrong. That he’s saying that Virginia has no laws against discrimination against gays; that universities who do have such policies are going above and beyond what they’re required to do.

You’d be wrong. The AG’s statement says:

It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “gender expression,” or like classification, as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly.

(emphasis added)

So yeah, the AG just said that universities have to seek special permission to not be bigoted.

TX judge calls death penalty unconstitutional

Also from the Post:

A Texas judge in the county that sends more inmates to death row than any other in the nation ruled in a pretrial motion this week that the death penalty is unconstitutional, saying he could assume that innocent people have been executed.

Sounds good to me. I don’t disagree with the idea that there are people who deserve to be put to death, sometimes by chainsaw, but I nonetheless have a problem with the death penalty, because in the case of a mistake, there’s not a whole lot you can do to undo it. That’s on top of the other arguments against it.

Naturally, the judge is now taking flak from Texas governor Rick Perry. And the Texas AG is calling this “judicial activism”. Figures.

KS considers taxing churches

Finally, the Kansas state House is considering a bill that would raise taxes on churches. Or at least that’s what the hoopla is about. The Kansas City Star and ABC’s have articles about this, but perhaps the clearest explanation comes from the KC Star’s Prime Buzz blog:

The bill would impose the state’s 5.3 percent sales tax on power, gas and water bills. It would also remove a sales tax exemption enjoyed by churches and some particular business transactions.

Right now the state exempts 96 specific groups or types of business transactions from the state’s sales tax. Those exemptions add up to more than $4 billion. Lawmakers eager to avoid deeper cuts to schools and other state services suggested the repeal of some of these breaks to help eliminate a nearly $500 million deficit.

The [House Tax] Committee removed a provision repealing the sales tax exemption for non-profit organizations and for home repairs.

As I understand it:

• Kansas currently does not tax utilities; the bill would impose this tax on utilities, for everyone in Kansas.

• On a separate topic, there are various groups that currently don’t pay sales tax on anything. This bill would repeal a lot of these exemptions, including the one for churches and non-profits.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I agree that nonprofits that do good for the community should be given tax breaks (and I’m willing to concede for now that churches fall into this category). But these are lean times, and these tax breaks are costing the state revenue. At the same time, lean times mean that people need charitable organizations more than ever.

Of course, I haven’t read the bill, so I don’t know the details. Maybe it maintains exemptions for nonprofits that clearly do good, like soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and raises taxes on organizations that provide only nebulous benefit like “spiritual uplift”.

4 thoughts on “News Items

  1. Kansas doesn’t currently tax utilities? Huh.

    Hopefully the new taxation has a sunset clause in it. If they haven’t had to rely on it thus far then they arguably won’t need it in the future.

  2. I agree that nonprofits that do good for the community should be given tax breaks (and I’m willing to concede for now that churches fall into this category).

    I’m not at all willing to concede that, at least not until it has been carefully justified in cost-benefit terms.

  3. RBH:
    Oh, sure. All I meant was that for purposes of figuring out whether the Kansas bill is a good idea, I didn’t want to get sidetracked onto the question of whether churches do more good than harm. Hence the “for now”.

  4. Great, just what we needed, higher electric, gas, and water bills. Of course with a state shortfall of $467 million they need to pull in some extra revenue somehow.

    On a separate note, I agree with the taxation of churches. If they can afford to build those huge mega-churches and put up huge golden crosses, they can afford to pay a few taxes.

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