Follett v. Town of McCormick/Concurrence Murphy

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United States Supreme Court

321 U.S. 573

FOLLETT  v.  TOWN OF McCORMICK, S.C.

 Argued: Feb. 11, 1944. --- Decided: March 27, 1944


Mr. Justice MURPHY, concurring.

While I am in complete accord with the opinion of the Court, I desire to add a brief word in light of certain statements made in the dissenting opinion. It is claimed that the effect of our decision is to subsidize religion. But this is merely a harsh way of saying that to prohibit the taxation of religious activities is to give substance to the constitutional right of religious freedom.

It is suggested that we have opened the door to exemption of wealthy religious institutions, like Trinity Church in New York City, from the payment of taxes on property investments from which support is derived for religious activities. It is also charged that the decision contains startling implications with respect to freedom of speech and the press. I am neither disturbed nor impressed by these allegations. We are not called upon in this case to deal with the taxability of income arising out of extensive holdings of commercial property and business activities related thereto. There is an obvious difference between taxing commercial property and investments undertaken for profit, whatever use is made of the income, and laying a tax directly on an activity that is essentially religious in purpose and character or on an exercise of the privilege of free speech and free publication.

It is wise to remember that the taxing and licensing power is a dangerous and potent weapon which, in the hands of unscrupulous or bigoted men, could be used to suppress freedoms and destroy religion unless it is kept within appropriate bounds.

Separate opinion of Mr. Justice ROBERTS, Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER and Mr. Justice JACKSON.

Notes[edit]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).