California Democrat suggests Catholic church should be stripped of tax-exempt status if it denies Biden communion

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Members of Biden’s party have defended his right to take Communion following of US Catholic bishops attempts to disallow him. (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Members of Biden’s party have defended his right to take Communion following of US Catholic bishops attempts to disallow him. (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A Democratic congressman from California has said that the Catholic church should have their tax-free status revoked if they decide President Joe Biden should not be able to take Communion.

The comment from Rep Jared Huffman comes after a recent US Conference of Catholic Bishops vote on 18 June to begin the process to deny Mr Biden the ability to take Communion. Seventy-three per cent of US bishops voted for the motion, which was to share a full description of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Mr Huffman wrote on Twitter, “If they’re going to politically weaponize religion by ‘rebuking’ Democrats who support women’s reproductive choice, then a ‘rebuke’ of their tax-exempt status may be in order.”

According to IRS’ website, churches may enjoy certain tax relief if they are not beholden to shareholders. Additionally, the conditions state that churches “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates”.

Recently, a wave of Republican-controlled states have been passing restrictive anti-abortion laws, including Texas and Alabama. They have introduced limits on the medical procedure at as early as six weeks of pregnancy. This trend is believed to be a part of an overall strategy to overturn Roe v Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that allowed safe and legal access to abortion.

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The debate about Biden being able to take Communion comes from him being personally pro-life, but uninterested in denying women the right autonomy over their own bodies. He wrote in his 2007 book Promises to Keep he did not think he has “right to impose my view on the rest of society.” Since then, Biden has repeated this belief on the record, such as in a vice-presidential debate in 2012 against Paul Ryan.

When asked about the vote on Friday, Biden said to reporters, “That’s a private matter and I don’t think that’s going to happen”.

Biden is well known for his Irish Catholic faith and regularly attends public Mass services, including in England during the G7, surprising local parishioners. While campaigning with President Barack Obama, he had dedicated aides to locate Catholic churches that would welcome him in their Mass services, according to The Washington Post.

The bishop’s statement is believed to not be written yet. The America Magazine reported on the existence of a brief that implied it would “include the theological foundation for the Church’s discipline concerning the reception of Holy Communion and a special call for those Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochical leaders to witness the faith.

According to The Washington Post, the Vatican has warned against the drafting and publishing of the document, as Cardinal Luis Ladaria has written a letter to US bishops stating that creating policies about politicians receiving Communion would “become a source of discord rather than unity”.

According to the Pew Research Center, 67 per cent of US Catholics disagree with banning Biden from taking Communion.

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