A new Supreme Court decision respects the American tradition of allowing religious ministries and organizations to pursue their missions without interference from the IRS.
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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Religious Hospitals and Organizations
In 1977, the Internal Revenue Service tried to declare that Catholic nuns operating a hospital was not a “religious function.” Congress responded by amending the Employment Retirement Income Securities Act or ERISA to prevent the IRS from deciding what is or is not a church.
Nonetheless, class-action lawyers recently tried to argue that because some religious hospitals established pension plans, ERISA’s exemptions did not apply because those plans were not established by a church. Well, a unanimous Supreme Court recently rejected that reasoning.
The Court recognized that Congress’s amendment of ERISA continues to protect religious organizations from the burdens of ERISA, foreclosing the possibility that the IRS could bankrupt a religious organization simply because it does not believe the organization is religious enough. First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case on behalf of several religious organizations.
As my colleague, Justin Butterfield, said of the decision in Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton: “The History of the United States of America is one requiring the government to respect the religious freedom and autonomy of its houses of worship and religious organizations. The Supreme Court’s decision respects that great history and tradition, allowing churches, synagogues, mosques, and religious ministries to pursue their religious mission without the weight of government bureaucracy and regulation hindering their efforts and intruding upon their mission.”
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