Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Churches , Gender Discrimination, and the Tax Exemption - Bob Jones Raises Head Again

If I  recall , I think I blogged  on an rather interesting article that raised in the still controversial Bob Jones University Supreme Court Case. See from "down under" at the Australian Broadcast Corporation Religion and Ethics folks The burqa and the new religious intolerance .

In Martha Nussbaum's   well done piece she drops this bombshell:

What respect for persons requires is that people have equal space to exercise their conscientious commitments, not that others like or even respect what they do in that space. Furthermore, equal respect for persons is compatible with limiting religious freedom in the case of a "compelling state interest."
A government intervention that was right, in my view, was the judgment that Bob Jones University should lose its tax exemption for its ban on interracial dating. Here the Supreme Court agreed that the ban was part of that sect's religion, and thus that the loss of tax-exempt status was a "substantial burden" on the exercise of that religion, but they said that society has a compelling interest in not cooperating with racism. Never has the government taken similar steps against the many Roman Catholic universities that restrict their Presidencies to a priest, hence a male; but in my view they should all lose their tax exemptions for this reason.

Why is the burqa different from the case of Bob Jones University? First, of course, government was not telling Bob Jones that they could not continue with their policy, it was just refusing to give them a huge financial reward in the form of tax relief, thus in effect cooperating with the policy.

A second difference is that Bob Jones enforced a total ban on interracial dating, just as the major Catholic universities have imposed a total ban on female candidates for the job of President. Thus everyone who is part of the institution is coerced. The burqa, by contrast, is a personal choice, so it's more like the case of some student at Bob Jones (or any other university) who decides to date only white females or males because of familial and parental pressure. Sadly, most people in most places prefer to date only people from their own group. And many religions back them up. This may be morally short-sighted, but it does not seem like a case for government intervention. Which brings me to my next point.

Even among most people that strongly were against the Bob Jones policy on interracial dating the reasoning of Bob Jones opinion  made many people wary. The above thoughts of Nussbaum show why some people were wary.

Well it appears this reasoning has raised it's head in another piece. See from the Volokh Conspiracy Law Professor Calls for Denying Tax Exemptions to the Catholic Church, Orthodox Synagogues, and Other Groups That Discriminate Based on Sex   .

I agree with the Law Prof that this would be very bad policy. This needs to be watched. In the end one could have in reality two different kinds of Churches that would be treated quite differently by the Government as to advantages. Of course the question is after gender what would be next?

It goes without saying that people that raised the possibility of what now these Profs are now advocating were told they were being to " slippery slope " in their concerns at the time of the Bob Jones ruling.

Well maybe not.

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