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Nebraska bill would end church property tax exemptions

Ernie Chambers

A Nebraska state senator has introduced a bill that would eliminate a state property-tax exemption for religious organizations.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, an atheist, introduced Legislative Bill 675, on Friday, Jan. 24, according to a report issued by The bill would require churches and other religious organizations to pay property taxes.

According to Chambers’ Statement of Intent, the bill is an attempt to “gain more revenue, rather than less, by taking away churches’ property tax exemptions.” In the statement Chambers argues:

The Governor and candidates for governor have said that “everything should be on the table.” If taxes were paid on the many churches and cathedrals and temples in every city in this State, perhaps the State’s assistance to local governments and schools would be diminished considerably -- leaving more in State coffers for other purposes.

The bill is not expected to make it out of committee, but Chambers said he may attach it as an amendment to other bills he opposes.

The Friendly Atheist reports Ernie Chambers is arguably the highest-ranking openly-atheist politician in the country right now. The African-American Nebraska State Senator served for 38 years (beginning in 1970), making him the longest-serving senator in the state’s history, until he was term-limited out in 2008. When he was eligible to run again in 2012, he did so and won easily.

In 2007 Chambers made headlines after launching a lawsuit against God in 2007 to make the point that anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody.

The bill won support from the Secular Coalition of Nebraska. The Nebraska Catholic Conference appeared in opposition. The Revenue Committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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