Law

Mormonism at the Scopes Trial

February 28, 2014 | 29 comments
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Mormonism at the Scopes Trial

I read Edward J. Larson’s Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Harvard Univ. Press, 1997) earlier this month, and was surprised to see the Book of Mormon appear in one of Clarence Darrow’s arguments to the court. Funny how little mention there is of the Scopes Trial in LDS discourse, given how often evolution seems to come up. I have some ideas on that. But first the interesting arguments made to the court by Darrow. Read more »

Same-Sex Marriage Bans and Tax

December 21, 2013 | 7 comments
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District-Utah

The District of Utah has had a busy week. As I'm sure you heard (and if you haven't, you ought to read Kaimi's post first), Utah's ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down as unconstitutional. A week ago, in the wake of the decision that didn't actually legalize polygamy, I looked at the potential tax consequences of that decision and, fairly anti-climatically, determined that there were none. Plenty of electrons will be spilled going over this decision but, again, I suspect that the tax consequences will be underexplored. Read more »

Gay Polygamy in Utah!

December 20, 2013 | 27 comments
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Gay Polygamy in Utah!

By now you’ve heard the news. A federal judge in Utah just ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This follow on last week’s ruling, from a different judge, that portions of Utah’s polygamy statute were also unconstitutional. What does it mean? Obviously, it means the advent of gay polygamy!! It won’t stop until everyone is married to everyone else, in one giant gay-polygamous-mega-wedding. Let the festivities begin! Okay, maybe not. Let’s go through the rulings, piece by piece, to see what they say, and what their effects may be. Read more »

Decriminalizing Polygamy (and, of Course, Tax)

December 14, 2013 | 11 comments
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sister_wives_tv_series_logo

On Friday, December 13, the Judge Waddoups, a district court judge in the District of Utah, held that Utah's criminalization of polygamy was unconstitutional. Partly, anyway. More on that in a minute. I suspect that this opinion will reverberate throughout the blogosphere and the mainstream media, with the reporting displaying various levels of accuracy. The question I suspect won't get much play, though, is, what are the tax consequences of this decision? Read more »

Happy(?) Repeal Day!

December 5, 2013 | 12 comments
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prohibition_ends_repeal_day_cocktails

The Twitters tell me that 80 years ago today, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus ending Prohibition. Whatever you think about Prohibition, it's probably worth noting the Pres. Grant was not a fan of its end. In fact, he addressed the end of Prohibition---and Utah's role in ending it---at General Conference in 1934. Here's an (annotated by me) excerpt of what he said: Read more »

Money for Nothing and the Housing for Free

November 25, 2013 | 22 comments
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Methodist Episcopal Church and Parsonage, Iroquois, South Dakota 1900s 2.preview

On Thursday, November 21, the district court of the Western District of Wisconsin declared (part of) the parsonage exemption---a special tax provision for certain religious persons---unconstitutional. Read more »

Invite the IRS to Your Family Reunion

August 9, 2013 | 8 comments
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Over at Keepaptichinin, Amy Tanner Theriot has a wonderful post talking about family associations, and providing some guidelines for how to put together a successful association. In the post, she mentions that family associations can qualify as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities. At the mention of Code sections (and revenue rulings!), my ears perk up, and I thought I'd give a little more information about the tax side of such organizations. But before you read my post, you need to read Amy's. Because everything I know about family associations I learned reading her post, then doing a little Westlaw research. Because... Read more »

An Overview of LDS Involvement in the Proposition 8 Campaign

April 25, 2013 | 38 comments
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I’ve just posted my article, ‘The Divine Institution of Marriage': An Overview of LDS Involvement in the Proposition 8 Campaign, to SSRN. The article is largely descriptive, setting out in some detail the church’s actions and statements relating to Proposition 8. It chronicles a significant amount of factual material that has not been discussed at all in the existing legal literature. It may be especially relevant to people who have an interest in Proposition 8, same-sex marriage issues, gay rights issues generally, or LDS church issues generally. The full abstract is as follows: “The Divine Institution of Marriage”: An... Read more »

An April 15th Post

April 15, 2013 | 8 comments
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Reed Smoot

Happy tax day! In honor of today, a Mormon/tax story: Read more »

Facebook Memes and the Property Tax

November 27, 2012 | 39 comments
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Facebook Memes and the Property Tax

There is, I've been told, a Facebook meme going around, juxtaposing a decaying house and the San Diego temple to support the argument that churches should not be exempt from taxation. And, like Facebook memes everywhere, this one is dumb. Dumb primarily because it is a tautology that doesn't say anything. Because of course a tax-exempt organization does not pay taxes that a non-exempt individual pays. That's pretty much the definition of tax exemption. Of course, saying that a Facebook meme is dumb and tautological makes for a pretty short and boring post. Far more interesting, imho, is to take seriously... Read more »

Moroni Torgan, Yeah Samaké, and Political Neutrality

August 21, 2012 | 6 comments
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As a result of its political neutrality policy, the Church is not going to endorse Mitt Romney in his bid to become President (or, for that matter, Harry Reid in his bid to be reelected to the Senate). There are probably a number of reasons for the Church's desire to avoid endorsing a candidate but, as I've said previously, one reason may well be the tax consequences of such an endorsement. (Short refresher: technically, the IRS could revoke the Church's tax exemption, meaning the Church would owe taxes on all of its income other than donations, and that Church... Read more »

Taxing Churches: A Response

June 21, 2012 | 27 comments
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Oh no—somebody on the Internet is wrong while I’m on vacation! But duty calls. Recently, Ryan Cragun, a sociology professor, along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega, argued that the government subsidizes religion by about $71 billion a year. He thinks this is wrong, and that religions should pay their fair share. I have no problem with his making this argument—tax exemption costs the government significant revenue (though his $71 billion is based on really, really poor assumptions—more on that later), and should be examined carefully and critically. But Prof. Cragun’s analysis is not the careful and critical... Read more »

Polygamy 2012

April 19, 2012 | 21 comments
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Once upon a time, family law was a marginal legal topic that didn’t make many headlines the way constitutional law or criminal law so often do. But gay marriage and Prop 8 have propelled family law and marriage to the legal center stage. In an odd parallel development, “the family” has, over the last few years, moved to the center of LDS doctrine and practice as well, with “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” being the most visible evidence of that change. We are living in an intersecting perfect storm of changing family law, family doctrine, and family... Read more »

Taxing(?) City Creek Reserve, Inc.

April 4, 2012 | 24 comments
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Taxing(?) City Creek Reserve, Inc.

The other day, Nate responded to many of Jana Riess's criticisms of the City Creek mall in Salt Lake. As I read her piece, one sentence jumped out at me. Read more »

Taxing the United Order

February 28, 2012 | 24 comments
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Taxing the United Order

The United Order appears (for now, at least) to be a relic of the 19th century; since them, the mainstream Mormon church hasn't attempted to institute any large-scale communal economic structure based on Acts 2. And, frankly, I don't have any reason to think that it will in the 21st century; the Law of Consecration seems to be something different than economic communalism (though economic communalism fits within the Law of Consecration). Read more »

Mitt Romney’s Tithing Problem (?)

January 18, 2012 | 76 comments
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Mitt Romney’s Tithing Problem (?)

ABC broke the news: Mitt Romney has donated millions of dollars worth of stock to the Mormon church. SEC filings disclose that a Bain partner donated $1.9 million of Burger King stock to the Church; in addition, the Church has received stock of other Bain holdings, including Domino's, DDi, Innophos, and the parent company of AMC Theaters. But why? Why would Romney give the Church equity stakes in bad fast-food chains, second-rate pizza chains, and other such holdings? Read more »

Politics and Members of the Church

November 11, 2011 | 19 comments
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The Catholic church, that is. Read more »

How Are You Celebrating?

October 22, 2011 | 21 comments
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No, today isn’t a national holiday. It’s not any particular religious festival. We’re more than a week away from Halloween, a month from Thanksgiving, and a couple months from Christmas. The only reason you have today off (assuming you have today off) is because today is Saturday. And yet . . . On October 22, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Tax Reform Act of 1986, a bipartisan bill. That law, signed 25 years ago today, was the last fundamental tax reform in which the U.S. has engaged. Among other things, it broadened the tax base, reduced... Read more »

Background: Elder Oaks and the Charitable Deduction

October 19, 2011 | 19 comments
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Yesterday, as Marc pointed out, Elder Oaks testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee in favor of the deduction for charitable giving. He argued that the charitable deduction is vital to the nation’s welfare. Why, though, these hearings on the charitable deduction? Is it under attack? In case you haven’t been following the politics of tax and budgeting recently (of course, who hasn’t?), I thought I’d provide a little background to the hearing. The Deduction for Charitable Donations The charitable deduction is an itemized deduction (more on that later). It’s one of the older deductions in the tax... Read more »

Elder Oaks Testifying Before Congress Today

October 18, 2011 | 77 comments
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For those interested, Elder Dallin H. Oaks is testifying right now before the Senate Finance Committee on tax reform, specifically incentives for charitable giving.  He is testifying at the request of Senator Hatch. Read more »

Free Your Pulpit

October 3, 2011 | 12 comments
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Free Your Pulpit

On Sunday, as we luxuriated in General Conference (however we followed it), we missed an annual tradition: Pulpit Freedom Sunday. A quick background on Pulpit Freedom Sunday: on July 2, 1954, Lyndon Johnson proposed that Section 501(c)(3) (the Internal Revenue Code section that exempts, among other things, churches, universities, and the NCAA from tax) be amended to prevent exempt organizations from campaigning on behalf of or against candidates for office.  There’s no legislative history, and, in fact, no record of the voice vote on the amendment. But it passed. Note, though, that the prohibition wasn’t particularly aimed at churches;... Read more »

The Church and Taxes

September 29, 2011 | 25 comments
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The Church and Taxes

The Church cares about taxes. It doesn’t really seem to care about the details of tax policy, of course. I’ve never seen the Church weigh in on the appropriate tax rate, tax base, or even the appropriate type(s) of tax (e.g., an income or consumption tax, a retail sales tax or a VAT, or whatever) a government should impose. But still, it makes explicit and implicit nods that indicate that, ultimately, it cares both about its tax position and that of its members. The Church and (Its) Taxes Like (essentially) every other church in the U.S., the LDS church is... Read more »

Desert and a Just Society

September 18, 2011 | 99 comments
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The 2010 poverty level in the U.S., we learned on Tuesday, is the highest it has been since 1993. In 2010, about one in six Americans lived below the poverty line. In June, 14.6% of Americans received food stamps. To some extent, the high poverty rate is probably related to the high unemployment rate, which was 9.1% in August. I throw out all of these numbers to suggest that, as a society, we have a problem. That problem needs to be fixed. And we, as Mormons, undoubtedly have something that we can bring to the discussion of how to... Read more »

Mission Finances, part 3

September 5, 2011 | 37 comments
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(Note: this is the fourth part of a several-part series. You can read previous installments here, here, and here.) Quick review: prior to November 1990, missionaries and their families paid the actual cost of their missions. Moreover, parents would send money directly to their sons and daughters, with no intermediation from the Church. In May 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Davis v. United States that such payments were not tax-deductible, notwithstanding language in the Internal Revenue Code that contributions made “to or for the use of” the Church would be deductible. In November 1990, the Church announced... Read more »