Crimm Co-Authors Book Chapter on First Amendment and Tax Laws

Professor Nina J. Crimm has co-authored with Laurence H. Winer, Quand les libertés consacrées par le Premier amendement se voient limitées par les anomalies du droit fiscal (Hallowed First Amendment Freedoms Inhibited by Profanely Anomalous Federal Tax Laws) (with Laurence H. Winer), in POLITISATIONS DU RELIGIEUX: TRANSFERTS DU SACRÉ DANS L’AIRE ANGLOPHONE (16E-21E SIÈCLES)  (WHEN RELIGION GETS POLITICAL (OR POLITIZATIONS OF RELIGION): TRANSFERS OF THE SACRED IN ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRIES (16TH-21ST CENTURIES) (Nathalie Caron and Guillaume Marche, eds., Presses Universitaires de Rennes), scheduled to be published in 2014.  Here’s the abstract:

Gandhi once observed:  “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.”  Indeed, tenets of religions practiced in the United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere address a host of relevant social, governmental, political, economic and moral issues of the day.  One might think that the uniqueness of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, with its hallowed guarantees of free speech and press, the free exercise of religion, and freedom from government’s establishment of religion, particularly would protect spiritual leaders against governmental restrictions on their religiously motivated political speech and the rights of their congregants and others to hear such messages. As the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed earlier this year, political campaign speech enjoys the highest level of First Amendment protection. But in the U.S., as elsewhere, religion and politics are a volatile mix.

Thus, since 1954, U.S. federal income tax laws have absolutely prohibited spiritual leaders from endorsing or opposing in any official capacity political candidates and their positions on biblically related issues of the day. This constraint profoundly intrudes on the religious identities of those spiritual leaders who feel theologically compelled to educate their faithful “through the lens of Holy Scripture, and evaluate where … [candidates] stand in regard to the Word of God.”1 And because religious leaders are, among other things to their adherents, moral advisers, mentors, and spiritual guides, the law interferes as well with these individuals meaningfully effectuating their religious selves.  The perceived stakes may be infinitely high. Having to choose between fulfilling obligations of one’s chosen faith and its religious precepts through prophetic speech and its political implementation, or being silenced by profanely anomalous tax laws, can mean the difference between “being saved and slotted for eternal joyous life or condemned to eternal damnation, leading a life of virtue or a life of sin.”

Incongruously, federal tax law intrudes on political and religious liberties protected under the First Amendment and potentially compromises religious identity within some U.S. communities. The decided, singular chill on the religiously inspired political speech of clergy and on the concomitant religious and political rights of their congregants has provoked intense controversy over the proper role of religion in the political sphere. Our presentation will describe and situate this contemporary debate within the context of U.S. history and constitutional principles, thereby providing one pole for comparison with other secularized traditions and approaches, including insights into the dynamics of the intersecting roles of religion and politics in both spiritual and civic lives.


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