'Fundamental Public Policy for Churches'
Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer and Zachary B. Pohlman at the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.
ABSTRACT"Bob Jones University v. United States is a highly debated Supreme Court decision, both regarding whether it was correct and what exactly it stands for, and a rarely applied one. Its recognition of a “fundamental public policy doctrine” that could cause an otherwise tax-exempt organization to lose its favorable federal tax status remains highly controversial, although the Court has shown no inclination to revisit the case, and Congress has shown no desire to change the underlying statutes to alter the case’s result. That lack of action may be in part because the IRS applies the decision in relatively rare and narrow circumstances. The mention of the decision during oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges raised the specter of more vigorous and broader application of the doctrine, however. It renewed debate about what public policies other than avoiding racial discrimination in education might qualify as fundamental and also whether and to what extent the doctrine should apply to churches, as opposed to the religious schools involved in the original case. The IRS has taken the position that churches are no different than any other taxexempt organizations in this context, although it has only denied or revoked the tax-exempt status of a handful of churches based on this doctrine."