Media for Walz v. Tax Comm'n of the City of New York
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 19, 1969 in Walz v. Tax Comm'n of the City of New York
J. Lee Rankin:
Have any of those feared conditions that were the basis for these provisions of the First Amendment come about or appear on the horizon in connection with this matter?
Your -- the Court will recall its reference to various things, the fears that brought about this amendment, destruction of the Government, degradation of religion, persecutions that were occurred trying to obtain political religious supremacy for various religions, the establishment of a particular governmental faith which was disestablished about the same time as the exemptions were passed by the legislatures.
The various persecutions and attacks upon individuals who didn't support the established church, taxes for the payment of minister's salaries and the building of churches.
There have been at least one case this Court passed upon in regard to taxing the Bill of Church and of course it was stricken down.
And we find none of those particular tiers of -- that brought about the amendment that are either present in our situation or after 200 years or as I can see it, threat.
We have great pluralism in religions of all kinds of beliefs, either of a God or no God, and you can almost hardly imagine the range that they cover in this country, and as I said before is one of our great assets.
But if you decide to sustain the appeal in this case, we are going to have Government up to its ears in religion.
In religious -- in examination of all these exemptions that are provided in the tax laws for religious institutions, because we will have to know what they make, what their properties are worth, what they claim they're worth.
We will have all kinds of certiorari contests like we do with other people in the community, about the value of their church property and that the taxes are too high as compared with other people, and we will have to know what moneys they take in and all of those various things.
So instead of being neutral, as this exemption permits and provides, we will be so engrossed in religious activities which is the very thing, I submit to you, that this country has been trying to provide against by this amendment, and this Court has used such great care in order to provide and insist upon a separation of Church and State.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you, Mr. Rankin.
Edward J. Ennis:
I'd like to make just two statements if it pleases the Court.
One that the corporation counsel has gone outside the record to tell the Court some knowledge he has about the value of Mr. Walz's property and how much his taxes were.
I don't have that information and in the affidavit, a five-page affidavit in support of the motion for summary judgment, the City of New York which could've easily have the information available about the value of that property did not choose to make that point.
I don't think that should be taken into account.
And about this specter that the corporation counsel raises that if we have to value the property of churches for real estate tax purposes there is going to be a lot of certiorari proceedings in the like.
Very well, one of the socially undesirable factors in the exemption of church property is we don't have any idea of what the value of such property is, and there's no reason we shouldn't.
It's not true to suggest that knowledge is un-neutral or hostile, that it would be a good thing if we know the value of the -- increasing value of the property of religious organizations in the United States, why not?
Thank you, Your Honor.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you, Mr. Ennis.
Thank you for your submission.
Thank you, Mr. Rankin for yours.
The case is submitted.