Representatives from dozens of industries have spoken out against the Trump administration’s proposed tariffs on goods imported from China, including religion publisher HarperCollins Christian Publishing (HCCP), the parent company of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, as well as the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).
A tariff of up to 25% could be placed on $300 billion worth of goods imported from China, including books and Bibles. If imposed, HCCP says it would be forced to discontinue some of its Bibles lines due to the significant price increase, which would make the product unaffordable to customers.
The Bible tax would not only damage its business, but dramatically raise the cost of books and Bibles, said HCCP's president and CEO Mark Schoenwald, during a hearing conducted by the U.S. Trade Representative last week.
“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 said. “However, if printed books, including Bibles are not removed from the fourth list of products from China to be subject to tariffs and the tariffs go into effect, publishers will reduce investment in their businesses, consumers and religious organizations will face higher prices, and churches, schools, ministries, and non-profit organizations will have fewer resources to educate others and connect them with the Holy Bible.”
The size, paper, inserts, covers and other qualities of Bibles tend to make production costs substantially higher than for traditional trade books. The potential tariff would also hurt HCCP’s children’s books, which are four-color products.
Stan Jantz, the president of the ECPA, said that over 50% of Bibles are printed in China, in part because the only U.S. printers that offer comparable prices and quality lack the capacity to meet current demands. “A 25 percent tariff imposed on Bibles would be a heavy burden on publishers and on the societies that print and read them,” he told PW.
Paul Hendrickson, general manager of the family-owned Hendrickson Publishers, also offered a testimony during the hearing; as did a representative from Biblica—the oldest Bible society in the U.S. which also publishes Bibles.
“We aren’t opposed to the tariffs but we are arguing that a class of products are worthy of exemption," said Jantz. "I don’t know exactly how it works, but I hope that President Trump would be amendable.”