Sunday, May 25, 2008

"President Reagan and the lawyers he has put in charge of protecting civil rights should stand ashamed."

"Racial hatred is not tax-exempt, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday by a lopsided vote."

The NYT excoriates the Reagan Administration:

On what basis could the Administration have sided with private academies claiming a religious basis for discriminatory admissions? It's hard to think of any basis other than pandering to the religious right. Courts have repeatedly ruled that such schools are not entitled to pick the taxpayer's pocket for money to finance racial bias. And three previous Administrations, of both parties, obeyed the courts. Ronald Reagan tried to sneak past a change in this policy with a quiet announcement.

When that produced a storm of criticism, the President claimed he was legally bound to grant the tax exemptions. He had the gall to say that if Congress wanted to forbid them, it would have to pass another law. Congress rightly refused to dignify that ploy with an answer. The Court now explains that Congress has already given it - in laws passed over 90 years and reaffirmed twice since 1976.
Here's that "lopsided" decision in Bob Jones University v. United States. The lone dissenter is — as anyone could have guessed — William Rehnquist. How much "gall" are we talking about? Enough to make Congress seem noble for not passing more specific legislation? Rehnquist wrote:
The Court points out that there is a strong national policy in this country against racial discrimination. To the extent that the Court states that Congress in furtherance of this policy could deny tax-exempt status to educational institutions that promote racial discrimination, I readily agree. But, unlike the Court, I am convinced that Congress simply has failed to take this action and, as this Court has said over and over again, regardless of our view on the propriety of Congress' failure to legislate we are not constitutionally empowered to act for it.
Why let Congress off the hook? It's a shame that all this litigation was necessary.


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