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State Sales Tax Law Violated First Amendment

The South Carolina law exempted sales of religious books and magazines from sales tax.

• The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that a state law exempting sales of religious books and magazines from sales tax violated the nonestablishment of religion clause of the first amendment. A South Carolina law exempted "religious publications" from sales and use taxes. "Religious publications" were defined to include "books, periodicals, pamphlets and other printed matter, which are devoted to man's relationship to Divinity; to reverence, worship, obedience and submission to mandates and precepts of supernatural or superior beings." The state supreme court ruled that this exemption violated the first amendment's nonestablishment of religion clause. The court observed that its decision was controlled by a 1989 decision of the United States Supreme Court, in which the Court ruled that an exemption granted by Texas law to periodicals published or distributed by a "religious faith ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • July 1, 1992

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