Trump admin’s tariff exemption for bibles unconstitutional, FFRF contends

The Freedom From Religious Foundation is urging the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to reconsider its recent decision exempting bibles from China tariffs.

The office recently placed bibles among about $2 billion worth of products it is exempting from the tariffs President Trump imposed on goods from China. The exemption was reportedly granted because Christian organizations argued that a tariff on bibles would threaten the religious liberty of Christians.

This decision is disappointing, unnecessary and conflicts with the fundamental principle that the U.S. government should not play favorites on matters of religion, FFRF has alerted the office.

“Carving out an exception for bibles from a broad tariff scheme is not a religious accommodation, it is religious favoritism,” FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker write to U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer. “Favoring religion over nonreligion, or favoring one religion in particular over others, conveys official endorsement on behalf of the U.S. government, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Additionally, this exemption exhibits a gross misunderstanding of religious liberty.

“Paying a tariff for importing a bible is not a religious burden simply because the bible is a religious book,” Gaylor and Barker added. “Rather it is a burden on their expectations, on their religious entitlement.”

Finally, there is no danger of a bible shortage in the United States or a price spike forcing Americans to stop reading it — most studies show they barely read it anyway. According to The Barna Group, an evangelical Christian polling firm, there are 4.7 bibles in the country per household. Given that the average American household consists of just 2.6 people, there are nearly twice as many bibles in the country as there are individuals.

“There is no imminent danger of running out of bibles anytime soon, even if we were to stop importing them entirely,” the letter concludes.

This exemption is part of a disturbing, coordinated recent trend of Christian Nationalists pushing a false narrative of religious persecution when confronted with a threat to their majority religious privilege. It is unacceptable that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has caved to these demands.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members and several chapters across the country, including members in every state. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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