President Donald Trump has called
Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke a “wacko” for
proposing that religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage
lose their tax-exempt status.
On Thursday, nine presidential
candidates discussed LGBT issues during an HRC-sponsored town hall
broadcast on CNN during prime time.
Democratic presidential candidates discuss LGBT issues on prime
During the event, moderator Don Lemon
asked O'Rourke, a former congressman from Texas, whether “religious
institutions … should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose
“Yes,” O'Rourke answered. “There
can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any
institution, any organization in America that denies the full human
rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as
president, we’re going to make that a priority and we are going to
stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow
Appearing at the Values Voter Summit,
an annual conference sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC),
a vocal opponent of LGBT rights, Trump criticized O'Rourke without
mentioning his name.
“As you know, just a few days ago, a
Democrat running for president proposed revoking the tax-exempt
status of many churches and religious groups,” Trump told the
crowd. “And you [ask] why. And you know [who] it is. He's a wacko.”
Trump went on to tout his commitment to
religious liberty, which to conservative voters is often shorthand
for opposition to LGBT rights.
“I will never allow the federal
government to be used to target, harass or punish communities of
faith and I will never allow the IRS to be used as a political
weapon, as it has been and it is currently being used,” Trump said.
“It has been used so viciously, so violently against many people in
Other Republicans have criticized
O'Rourke, including Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who denounced
O'Rourke for “extreme intolerance” and “bigoted nonsense.”