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Travesty OR Justice?
Jonathan Pait
March 1, 2002

In response to an article last month, Harrison from Taylors, submitted the following comment:

"The issues of law and history surrounding the 1983 Supreme Court decision against BJU are well documented. The Court made its decision on these bases: 1) Congress decided, long ago, that schools may be relieved of their tax burdens if they provide a charitable function for the whole community. 2) Schools that discriminate against individuals for racial reasons do not, by definition, serve a whole community. From 1) and 2) one may safely conclude that BJU, in 1983, didn't serve a whole community and wasn't entitled to the tax relief Congress intended."

This gives an opportunity to look for a moment at Greenville's history as well as to take a moment to learn about a travesty in Constitutional Law. What Harrison explains is the liberal "mis/dis-interpretation" of the code dealing with 501(c)3 regulations. In reality it was an obvious attempt to "legislate from the bench."

According to the Internal Revenue Code, seven categories of institutions are entitled to tax exemption. Bob Jones University indisputably qualified under two categories (religious and educational) and can argue that it qualifies under a third (charitable). Before this case, qualification under only ONE category was required for tax-exempt status. However, the lawyer arguing against BJU used the same line that Harrison does.

So, even if you grant Harrison's assertion that BJU gives nothing to the community (which I don't), BJU still should have been allowed tax-exempt status. The code plainly reads, 'religious, educational, OR charitable." The court ruled that it must be interpreted as "religious, educational, AND charitable." As we learned with Bill Clinton, words actually mean things and "or" does not mean "and."

James J. Kilpatrick wrote concerning the ruling

Twelve years ago the IRS propounded a bizarre and ominous ruling. Henceforth, the word, "charitable" was to be controlling. Without a shred of statutory authority, the IRS rewrote the law in the conjunctive: to be exempt, an organization must be both charitable and also religious, or charitable and also educational, or charitable and also literary.

The IRS then went on to define "charitable" in terms of the "public policies" of the United States. The third step was to declare racial discrimination in violation of public policy. As night follows day, the fourth step was to revoke the exemption certification of any institution that the IRS found guilty of discrimination ("Reagan's Blow for Freedom Bounces Back," syndicated article in The Greenville News).

So, the IRS used something that they knew would cause most people to be on their side to once again allow the government to side-step its own rules. Even so, numerous religious organizations, including both Catholic and Jewish organizations filed friend of the court briefs in support of BJU. Why? Not because they agreed with the policy at BJU, but because they saw the danger. Dr. Bob Jones III, president of the school, commented during the battle that he wished it had been over any other issue. The battle was not as much to defend the policy itself as it was to fight for religious freedom. Does the government have the right to "punish" an institution because the beliefs of that institution are not approved of by the government?

Justice Rehnquist wrote in his dissenting opinion, the IRS is requiring organizations "to meet a higher standard of public interest, not stated by Congress, but to be determined and defined by the IRS and the courts." As a result Bob Jones University is unique among American educational institutions, as it is the only such institution that is taxed. It is also the only "pervasively religious" organization in America that is taxed. Unfortunately, this great wrong has been masked by the continued focus on the "inter-racial dating ban" and not on the deeper constitutional issue.

Harrison states, "Mr. Graydon is correct to recognize that government funds come with strings attached - this is right and appropriate. If a school wants to be outside the law then ... be willing to be outside the law in every way." BJU was not breaking any law. What law were they breaking? (Actually, until 1999 inter-racial marriage was against the law on South Carolina books!) BJU was openly admitting and recruiting all races soon after segregation ended. Remember, USC, Furman, and Clemson also were segregated. Furman did not end segregation until five years before BJU (Let that "charity" flow!)

Again Harrison posts, "It would be wonderful to have two home-town universities in our city." If BJU is not a "home-town" university, it is only that to the people who are unwilling to take a moment to allow them to be so. To say that no benefits "flow between our community and the campus" of Bob Jones University is to show simple ignorance. One ignores the 40% of the student body that is out every week working with Camp Spearhead, tutoring children in welfare homes, visiting the elderly in elder care homes, cleaning in neighborhoods and city parks, and the list goes on and on. One overlooks the millions of dollars BJU brings to Greenville each year. One closes ones eyes and ears to the incredible cultural opportunities offered. One pretends that the grade schools offered by BJU do not serve over 1500 of our young people. The list could go on.

Finally, he writes, "Hey, I would even apply for a community-patron library card at BJU but I suspect such a feat, in my behalf, might still require the intervention of an administrator." Well, I guess he won't find out till he tries. My bet is he never has. I only hope he will.

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