From May 26, 1962, an article from the legendary Robert Drinan, S.J., then the dean of Boston College Law School, on a prickly matter of church and state. Then, as now, the tax exemption of religious institutions was virtually unchallenged:
On April 16, 1962 the United States Supreme Court refused review to a unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island which has sustained tax exemption for religious bodies. The nation’s highest tribunal, Mr. Justice Black dissenting, said that no “substantial Federal question” was involved in the December 13, 1961 decision of Rhode Island’s highest court affirming the constitutionality of tax exemption for church and other properties.
Although refusal of review by the Supreme Court does not necessarily imply approval of the decision below, it is significant that six Justices of the Supreme Court affirmed for the first time in modern Supreme Court jurisprudence the principle that no “substantial Federal question” is involved in State laws granting tax exemption for buildings, lands and estates which are used for religious purposes. Continue reading