Bob Jones University V. United States - The Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court Decision

Bob Jones University v. United States was decided May 24, 1983 in an 8-1 decision with majority opinion written by Warren E. Burger, and joined by William J. Brennan, Byron R. White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry A. Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, and Sandra Day O'Connor. The Court, speaking through Burger, read a "common law" public interest requirement into the statute governing tax-exempt charitable status, and cited Congress' refusal to intervene as proof that they approved of the IRS's construction of the statute. The Court applied a strict scrutiny analysis and found that the "Government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education . . . substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on exercise of their religious beliefs." The Court made clear, however, that its holding dealt "only with religious schools—not with churches or other purely religious institutions."

Lewis F. Powell wrote a separate concurring opinion, emphasizing the importance of Congressional approval for administrative policy changes. William H. Rehnquist was the sole dissenter, arguing that the literal terms of the governing statute could not be read to exclude Bob Jones from charitable status.

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