Publication Title

Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy


campaign restrictions, churches

Document Type



This Article is enough to ruin many Thanksgiving family dinners. It is about American religion, politics, and taxes. Mostly it is about taxes. As I will explain, this is what sets it apart from the contemporary legal scholarship exploring the campaign restrictions on tax exempt churches. This Introduction identifies the problem addressed in the article, then introduces the contemporary legal scholarship and the alternative approach this article takes.

Part I of this Article introduces the reader to the legal context of "the problem" of churches being unable to campaign if they choose to be Tax Exempt under Section 501 (c) (3). Part II provides an overview of the current legal scholarship, which assumes that tax exemption is essential to churches' financial well-being, and hence has been labeled "Exemption Essentialism." Part III is a hypothetical tax-by-tax exploration of the claim that Section 501 (c) (3) may not be essential to churches. Part IV suggests some implications for churches, the government, legal scholars, and partisans if, in fact, tax exemption is not so valuable that it should deter churches from campaigning, if they are so inclined. Finally, the Conclusion recaps the Article.



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