Two giant Christian publishers warned that if Trump’s proposed tariff on Chinese goods pushes through, it could also lead to a “Bible tax.”
US President Donald Trump has proposed tariffs on $300 billion goods imported from China, including books and other printed materials, reports Religion News Service. The publishing industry would be greatly affected, including Bible production, since the majority of Bibles in the market are printed in China. Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said China is the world’s largest Bible publisher in 2012 despite the communist party’s ban on Bible distributions.
We believe the Administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on the publishing industry generally, and that it never intended to impose a ‘Bible Tax’ on consumers and religious organizations. —Mark Schoenwald, president of HarperCollins Christian Publishing
Stan Jantz, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), said China has specialized technology and skills to produce millions of Bibles. Since the 1980s, the Asian country has printed more than half of the 100 million Bibles printed every year and 20 million of those were sold or distributed in the US.
In a statement, Mark Schoenwald, president of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, said, “We believe the Administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on the publishing industry generally, and that it never intended to impose a ‘Bible Tax’ on consumers and religious organizations.”
Schoenwald explained that printing companies outside China don’t have the same facilities to produce the Bible’s specialized printing requirements such as thin paper, leather covers, and map insertions and he doesn’t see any US company willing to invest in similar technology.
The HarperCollins president said, if the 25% tariff on Chinese goods is implemented, consumers and religious organizations would pay higher for Bibles and other religious literature. He added that, “Churches, schools, ministries, and non-profit organizations will have fewer resources to educate others and connect them with the Holy Bible.”
Many ECPA members expressed concern over Trump’s proposed China tariffs. Jantz warned that, “There will be significant damage to Bible accessibility if Bibles and books are not excluded from the tariffs. Some believe such a tariff would place a practical limitation on religious freedom.”
Christian publishers are optimistic that Trump will remove Bibles from the list of Chinese products to be subject to tariffs, similar to the trade exemptions in the past.