3 religious issues to watch during the tax reform debate

SALT LAKE CITY — Republican leaders in both houses of Congress have put forward tax reform plans, proposing major changes to corporate tax rates and deduction rules. As they struggle to pass a bill by the end of the year, they’ll face a number of potential roadblocks, including people of faith.

“The ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017’ contains many fundamental structural flaws that must be corrected. As currently written, the proposal is unacceptable,” wrote leaders from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops about the House’s tax bill.

Religious organizations and individual members of the clergy have expressed a number of concerns about the current proposals, emphasizing the need to protect poor and middle-class Americans. They’re worried about shifts that could politicize church pulpits or shrink the budgets of community nonprofits that serve the poor, homeless and others in need.

“Tax plans are moral documents — as much, or more so, than budgets,” wrote Peter Laarman, a United Church of Christ minister, for Religion Dispatches.

Proposed reforms are still in flux, and the final version of the tax bill likely won’t take shape until next month. But here are three issues on religious leaders’ radars.

1. Politicking from the pulpit

President Donald Trump has had faith-related tax regulations in his sights since his campaign, regularly promising pastors that they would soon be free to be more politically active.

“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” he said at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, addressing the tax code provision that prevents nonprofit organizations from endorsing or collecting donations for political candidates.

The tax plan proposed by House GOP leaders fulfills part of this promise, enabling clergy members to…

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