For some time now, the issue of church and religious tax exemptions has been a hot topic of debate throughout the political spectrum. With most states and the federal government exempting religious institutions from property and income taxes, the increasingly political rhetoric espoused in many, largely evangelical churches, has stirred debate over whether or not such public political participation warrants the elimination of such exemptions.
And now in Nebraska, the state’s sole atheist legislator Ernie Chambers, has proposed a bill that would do just that, arguing not only that the taxing of churches for properties owned would help alleviate the burden on the state in regards to local financial assistance, but that such is also perfectly in line with biblical doctrine.
“Render unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s.”
This passage from the new testament, much like many of Christ’s more progressive and socially benevolent teachings, is quite often ignored by activists and politicians owing loyalty and fealty to the religious right. But according to Chambers, who is both the nation’s most notable openly atheist legislator as well as Nebraska’s longest-serving state senator, it is central to the thinking behind his bill LB675, which by means of striking the word “religious” from the state’s charitable tax exemption statute, would effectively render unto the state the ability to tax churches on property holdings.
Chambers openly admits the bill has little to no chance of passage, expecting it will likely simply be killed in committee. However the highly popular senator has also suggested that he’ll remain open to attaching it as an amendment to future legislation, should such a death for the bill come to pass.
First elected in 1970, Chambers was consistently reelected to his office over the course of 38 years, until in 2008 he stepped down as required by Nebraska’s term limitations for elected officials. Running again in 2012, Chambers reclaimed his seat with ease, despite, or perhaps as a result of his staunch views on religion.
In 2007, prior to his brief departure from public office, Chambers made headlines when he brought a civil lawsuit against “God,” in an effort both to draw attention to the importance of the court system, as well as to hold the mythical creator of all things accountable for the regular and routine incidents of human suffering which come about as part of what believers regard as “his plan.”
Watch Ernie Chambers take on God in this video from 2007.