Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

Petitioners contend that, even if the Commissioner's policy is valid as to nonreligious private schools, that policy cannot constitutionally be applied to schools that engage in racial discrimination on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. As to such schools, it is argued that the IRS construction . . . violates their free exercise rights under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. This contention presents claims not heretofore considered by this Court in precisely this context.

This Court has long held the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to be an absolute prohibition against governmental regulation of religious beliefs. . . . However, "not all burdens on religion are unconstitutional. . . . The state may justify a limitation on religious liberty by showing that it is essential to accomplish an overriding governmental interest." . . .

On occasion this Court has found certain governmental interest so compelling as to allow even regulations prohibiting religiously based conduct. In Prince v. Massachusetts . . . for example, the Court held that neutrally cast child labor laws prohibiting sale of printed materials on public streets could be applied to prohibit children from dispensing religious literature. The Court found no constitutional infirmity in "excluding [Jehovah's Witnesses children] from doing there what no other children may do." . . . Denial of tax benefits will inevitably have a substantial impact on the operation of private religious schools, but will not prevent those schools from observing their religious tenets.

The governmental interest at stake here is compelling. . . . [The] Government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education -- discrimination that prevailed, with official approval, for the first 165 years of this Nation's constitutional history. That governmental interest substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on petitioners' exercise of their religious beliefs.

Source: Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

C. O. Galvin and N. Dennis, "A Tax Policy Analysis of Bob Jones University v. United States", Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 6 ( November 1985), pp. 1353- 1382.

D. M. Kelley, "A New Meaning for Tax Exemption?" Journal of Church and State, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Autumn 1983), pp. 415-426.

References for Documents 177 and 178.


180
Mueller v. Allen (Extracts) June 29, 1983

A new and more ambiguous form of public assistance to parochial schools was the issue in this Minnesota case. State statutes of 1955, 1976, and 1978 allowed state income tax deductions for expenses incurred by taxpayers (tuition, textbooks, and transportation) in educating their elementary and secondary school-age children. When the practice

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