1970 May 4

Tax Exemptions for Churches Held Constitutional


In Walz v. Tax Commissioner, decided on this day, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that tax exemptions for churches violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court held that tax exemptions were granted to a broad range of non-profit organizations and that the exemption involved a minimal involvement with religion.

Justice William O. Douglas dissented, arguing that the tax exemption violated the Establishment Clause.

Justice Douglas in dissent: “A tax exemption is a subsidy. Is my Brother [Justice William J.] Brennan correct in saying that we would hold that state or federal grants to churches, say, to construct the edifice itself would be unconstitutional? What is the difference between that kind of subsidy and the present subsidy?”

Read: Jeremy Gunn and John Witte, No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (2012)

Learn more about the Establishment Clause: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/religion

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