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Trump backs off his decision to tax Bibles

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Is President Trump finally beginning to understand how tariffs harm Americans?

On Tuesday Trump said he was backing off his September 1 deadline for 10% tariffs on some Chinese imports. “We’re doing this for Christmas season, just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers,” Trump told reporters. “Just in case they might have an impact on people, what we’ve done is we’ve delayed it so that they won’t be relevant to the Christmas shopping season.”

Before yesterday Trump had consistently denied economic reality by claiming the Chinese would pay the full price of his tariffs. Perhaps he’s finally learned a lesson about how tariffs work. If so, the lesson is only half learned at best: the Trump administration still plans to impose 10% tariffs on thousands of Chinese food, clothing, and other consumer electronics products.

The Trump administration has also lifted the absurd tariff on Bibles. In June I reported on how the president’s tariffs were affecting the Christian book and Bible publishing industry since the overwhelming majority of Bibles in the U.S. are printed in China. “Bibles and other religious literature are among the items removed from the tariff list and will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent,” the US Trade Representative told Christianity Today.

Some Christians groups are praising the change while still wondering why the tax was ever imposed. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said,

Whatever one thinks about trade policy, the Bible should never have been a subject of this sort of taxation. As Christians, we believe the Bible is the Word of God, and is thus central to our lives and mission. With as many Bibles as are printed in China, the news that they will not be subject to such tariffs is welcomed news for LifeWay and other publishers of God’s holy Word. Even still, it is concerning that trade books and educational materials—also vital to the lives of Christians and churches—are still subject to a tariff. My hope is that this too will be addressed promptly.

Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, also commented on the change:

For the past several months, there has been great concern among the Christian publishing community that our important work would be threatened by proposed tariff schedules. Today’s announcement by the U.S. Trade Representative has given us hope that the administration has heard our concern. Nevertheless, I am troubled that the Word of God would ever be taken hostage in an international trade dispute. These past months have strengthened our resolve to get Bibles to the people who need them. Our mandate is built on obedience to Christ, regardless of any policy proposal from Washington, D.C.

We should be thankful the taxes were removed on Bibles and other religious resources since they would make America materially and spiritually poorer. But as Christians we should not be satisfied with a crony carve-out for the items that most affect us. We should oppose all of Trump’s unnecessary and foolish tax increase before it pushes us into a recession and harms our neighbors across the world.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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