Christian book publisher asks Trump admin to rethink 'Bible tax' on China

President Donald Trump's tariffs on certain Chinese products -- including consumer electronics like smartwatches and Bluetooth devices and safety products like bike helmets and car seats -- will impact nearly 6,000 items partially or fully.

Bibles are included in that number, according to testimony from HarperCollins Christian Publishing president and CEO Mark Schoenwald.

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The Office of the Federal Register includes printed books, bookbinding machinery, including book-sewing machines, and parts for that machinery in the extensive list of proposed products that would be subject to duties.

The tariffs threaten Christian book publishers, Schoenwald said in his submitted testimony.

“Due to the unique paper, printing, and binding needs of Bible production there are simply no U.S. vendors that could produce any significant portion of the volume needed to meet the demands of the U.S. market,” Schoenwald wrote. "The current U.S. producers do not have the capacity or capabilities to handle the unique and intricate specifications that are required to produce the traditional Bible that more than 90-percent of Bible consumers purchase. A 25-percent tariff on Bibles and religious materials would make it difficult to continue printing some formats, which could result in a Bible shortage and such shortage would cause economic harm throughout the Christian Bookseller market. Additionally, ministries, churches, non-profits and other religious organizations, which are major customers to HarperCollins Christian Publishing, would no longer be able to afford Bibles and educational materials that they need for their primary outreach efforts."

Bloomberg reported that Daniel Reynolds, CEO of Workman Publishing Co. in New York, said the tariff would also affect children directly, as there is no viable alternative to U.S. children's books printed in China.

“If tariffs are imposed, there will be fewer books available to American kids,” Reynolds said.

Christianity Today reported in 2012 that China became the largest Bible publisher in the world, so a so-called Bible tax could make a dent in production.

Editor's note: In an earlier version of this story, a quote was misattributed to HarperCollins Christian Publishing president and CEO Mark Schoenwald.

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