Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers certainly has a way of grabbing people’s attention.
In 2007, Chambers sued God. No, he wasn’t actually looking to collect any damage payments from a deity. He filed the lawsuit in response to conservative legislators who attempted to pass a bill banning frivolous lawsuits. Chambers, an atheist, hoped his faux lawsuit would make the point that U.S. law guarantees citizens the right to file a lawsuit against anyone for whatever reason they see fit – it’s up to courts to determine the legitimacy of a lawsuit.
Fast forward to 2014. Chambers proposed a bill this week that would require all churches in Nebraska to pay property taxes.
In order to help his bill’s cause, Chambers is arguing that churches should want to pay taxes. He cites Jesus’ infamous “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” quote to support his claim. Jesus made the statement in response to someone asking him whether it was lawful for Jews to pay taxes to Caesar. The passage is often cited by Christians when discussing how believers should interact with secular government authorities.
Currently in Nebraska, properties owned by educational, religious, and cemetery organizations are usually exempt from property taxes. Chambers didn’t write a new bill for his proposal. Rather, he took the state’s old bill and simply crossed out the word “religious” each time it appears in a list of properties that should be tax exempt.
Take a look:
Chambers’ Statement of Intent for the bill is worth noting as well. This is a man well-versed in satire.
“Every day that someone offers a prayer in the Legislature, it should [signal] another vote for LB 675,” Chambers writes. “This should be one of the easiest bills to pass that I’ve offered in the Legislature.
“Jesus knew about, and understood, taxes because his disciple, Matthew, heeded Jesus’ call to leave his place at the tax-gatherer’s booth and follow him. All things considered, I expect my legislative colleagues to say, regarding this bill: ‘Let Thy will be done.’ To which I can intone: ‘Amen.’”
I’d say this bill has about a snowball’s chance in hell of going anywhere.