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Crimm and Winer address political campaign speech restrictions on houses of worship
Professors Nina J. Crimm, of St. John’s University School of Law, and
Laurence H. Winer
, of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, co-authors of
Politics, Taxes, and the Pulpit: Provocative First Amendment Conflicts,
recently published by Oxford University Press, have written a guest blog for the American Constitution Society Book Talk.
The entry, “Religion’s Role in Electoral Politics: Citizens United and Anomalous Tax Law,” discusses the anomalous situation presented by federal tax law that absolutely precludes political campaign speech by many nonprofit entities, particularly houses of worship, as compared to analogous federal campaign finance law restrictions on corporations’ electoral political speech ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last year in Citizens United v. F.E.C.
“Many houses of worship and their religious leaders increasingly promote a highly vocal and influential role for religion in electoral politics,” the co-authors write. “They address a plethora of emotionally charged moral and political issues for which religious beliefs and spiritual commitments are central for many people.”
Yet, in addition to discussing issues, many spiritual leaders endorse or oppose candidates. As a result, these clergy run afoul of the federal tax law, threatening their house of worship’s tax-exempt status and the many related tax benefits.
And while many people believe that prohibiting political campaign speech by houses of worship helps maintain a healthy separation of church and state, the Supreme Court extends the highest First Amendment protections to political speech.
“Our book examines this volatile mix of religion, electoral politics, and taxes in the context of multi-faceted constitutional tensions engendered among all fundamental values embodied in the First Amendment: free speech and free press, the free exercise of religion, and the avoidance of government establishment of religion,” the co-authors write.
In their book, Crimm and Winer offer imaginative legislative proposals to amend the federal tax laws and thus to ameliorate the problematic constitutional conflicts.
Read more here: