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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Church, State, and the Tax Code

In our chapter on civic culture, we discuss the relationship between religious organizations and the tax code. The topic remains newsworthy. The New Hampshire Journal reports:

It’s on between the Tea Party and the Catholic Church in New Hampshire.

Republican State Rep. and Tea Party leader Andrew Manuse (R-Derry) told the Catholic League he will be filing legislation in the New Hampshire House to strip the Roman Catholic Church of its tax exempt status because Bishop John McCormack spoke against proposed budget cuts at a recent State House rally, according to Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League.

“I am now considering a bill to remove the Church’s tax exempt status in New Hampshire, for you have clearly shown that you no longer want it,” Manuse says in the e-mail.

Sources at the State House have confirmed to NH Journal that Manuse indeed intends to file such legislation.

Last week, McCormack joined several thousand protesters to oppose Republican-sponsored budget cuts.

“Never in the nearly 18 years I have spent as president of the Catholic League have I seen more totally irresponsible statements issued by the lawmakers in any one state,” said Donohue in a statement. “Why doesn’t Manuse go right ahead with his bill to remove the Church’s tax-exempt status? We’d love to present his e-mail in court.”

The ABA Journal reports on Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn and Garriott v. Winn:

The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed an establishment clause challenge to a tax credit program that helps fund scholarships at religious schools, ruling that the taxpayers who sued don’t have standing to pursue the case.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion (PDF) in the 5-4 case. The plaintiffs’ mere status as taxpayers was insufficient to create standing, Kennedy said. His opinion sees a difference between direct governmental expenditures and tax credits. In the latter instance, he wrote, “any financial injury remains speculative.”

The Arizona program provided individual tax credits of up to $500 for contributions to groups that in turn funded private school scholarships, including scholarships to religious schools.

Oral argument here