United States v. Lee

PETITIONER:United States
LOCATION:Lee Residence

DOCKET NO.: 80-767
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)

CITATION: 455 US 252 (1982)
ARGUED: Nov 02, 1981
DECIDED: Feb 23, 1982
GRANTED: Mar 23, 1981

Francis X. Caiazza – on behalf of the Appellee
Lawrence G. Wallace – on behalf of the Appellant

Facts of the case

Edwin Lee, a member of the Old Order Amish, employed several other Amish workers on his farm and in his carpentry shop. He did not pay quarterly social security taxes, and in 1978, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assessed $27,000 in unpaid taxes. Lee paid the portion due for the first quarter of 1973 and sued for a refund. Lee argued that the tax violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. In the Amish religion, it is a sin not to provide for the community’s elderly and needy citizens. Lee argued that paying the federal government for Social Security violates that provision of his religion by giving the responsibility of caring for the elderly and needy to the government. The district court held that the Social Security tax was unconstitutional as applied. The court also noted that §1402(g) provides an exception to the social security tax for certain self employed individuals. The U.S. Supreme Court heard this case on direct appeal.


Can the U.S. government require payment of Social Security taxes from those who religiously object to the receipt of the attached benefits?

Media for United States v. Lee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 02, 1981 in United States v. Lee

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – February 23, 1982 in United States v. Lee

Warren E. Burger:

I have two cases to announce in United States against Lee, No. 80-767.

For reasons stated in the opinion for the court filed with the clerk this morning, the judgments of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.

Justice Stevens filed a statement concurring in the judgment.