Arizona schools seek Congress 'religious freedom' help after gay marriage court ruling

(Photo: Reuters / James Lawler Duggan)Demonstrators stand outside the court after two high-profile decisions supporting same-sex marriage were announced at the US Supreme Court in Washington June 26, 2013. On Wednesday the Supreme Court handed a significant victory to gay rights advocates by recognizing that married gay men and women are eligible for federal benefits and paving the way for same-sex marriage in California.

Some leaders of conservative Christian schools in Arizona are alarmed after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing same-sex marriages and say Congress must act to respect religious freedom.

Several school officials signed a letter sent to the U.S. Congress days after the highest court ruled to allow gay marriage throughout the United States.

They noted that the ruling affecting the whole nation could upset, among other things, their institutions' tax-exempt status.

"Any federal initiative, whether generated in the judicial, executive, or legislative branches of government, to remove tax-exempt status from faith-based education institutions because of their commitment to their beliefs about marriage would result in severe financial distress for those institutions and their millions of students," the letter stated.

"The majority of these institutions hold to religious traditions that forbid sexual intimacy outside of marriage between one man and one woman, and will not jettison these convictions for any tax benefit," part of the letter read.

It was signed by Valley church leaders and school officials who argued that the state ought to consider their religious freedom, as much as the ruling that allowed same-sex marriage.

Among singers of the letter were the president of Arizona Christian University Len Munsil, and the president of the Christian Schools of Arizona organization, Michael Sproul, reported.

In their deliberations, the justices insinuated that the tax exemption status of schools or churches which would stop gay relationships could be imperiled.

Similarly, organizations that prohibit interracial relationships had their tax-exemption status revoked.

The tax breaks enjoyed by some schools have benefited Arizona in general, according to a policy observer, interviewed by KPHO, a CBS affiliate.

A counsel for the Center for Arizona Policy pointed out that should the government take away the tax exemption status of schools not accepting the Supreme Court ruling, some institutions might have to shut down.

"A lot of these Christian schools, it is the lifeblood to them," said the center's Josh Kredit. "They are providing countless benefits to society and to take away that tax exempt status, it would shutter a number of schools."

"I think a lot of people aren't even aware that this could be an issue and I think if they find out ... then they will be very concerned," he said.

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