Bob Jones University v. United States

PETITIONER: Bob Jones University
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Dr. Simopoulos’ Clinic

DOCKET NO.: 81-3
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 461 US 574 (1983)
ARGUED: Oct 12, 1982
DECIDED: May 24, 1983

William B. Ball - Argued the cause for the petitioner, Bob Jones University
William T. Coleman, Jr. - Pro se, by invitation of the Court, argued the cause as amicus curiae urging affirmance
William G. McNairy - Argued the cause for the petitioner, Goldsboro Christian Schools
William Bradford Reynolds - Argued the cause for the United States in both cases

Facts of the case

Bob Jones University as appellant was education establishment of Christian-fundamentalist direction and simultaneously federal charitable organization with functions to exempt from tax. The policies of the institution were enacted under the religious prescriptions and restricted the dating and marriage between the students of the different race.

In 1970 the Internal Revenue Service enacted an order that established the requirement of non-discrimination school rules to be considered as charitable and has tax-free privilege. Because of that, the state decided that the university did not adhere the prescriptions of the mentioned law and deprived its charitable recognition and obligated for tax payments.

The plaintiff brought a suit against such actions before the District Court. The main issue was to refund all money paid as duties by the University and to restore the previous legal position. The judgment found that the deprivation of its privilege was not legible in accordance with the federal legislation and it also infringed its constitutional rights proven by the First Amendment.

However, the representative of the government filed the appellation after that the judges revised the rulings and concluded that the plaintiff violated the obligation to enact the policies without any discriminations provisions. Thus, the internal rules of the education establishment authorized some restrictions for students depending on their race; then the court confirmed that the government actions were within the legal framework.

The case was passed to the Supreme Court that agreed with the appeal decision. The case brief underlines that the ruling defined that the prevention of the race discrimination was a much more significant purpose as it violated the fundamental rights of citizens. However, the judges noted that such rulings should be applied to the educational institutions, but not for churches and other religious organizations.


Can the government prohibit race discrimination at the expense of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clauses?

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