Church Law and Tax 1989-09-01 Recent Developments Immigration Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA •

Church Law and Tax 1989-09-01 Recent Developments


A federal district court in Arizona ruled that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) acted properly in seizing a van owned by the Tucson Ecumenical Council. At the time the van was seized, it was being used by a local clergyman to transport three Guatemalan citizens in violation of federal law. Vehicles so used are subject to seizure and forfeiture so long as the person operating the vehicle knows that the alien or aliens being transported are in the United States in violation of immigration law. The court rejected the Council’s contention that the aliens were lawfully in the United States. The court concluded: “The fact that [the clergyman] acted as a matter of conscience and moral conviction and with no intent to do specific harm to any person, group or society is abundantly clear … but that does not mean he did not know he was violating the law. It only means that in following the dictates of his conscience he was willing to violate secular law in order to obey moral law. With the freedom to make that choice, as I believe he did, comes the consequences of the act demanded by that secular law. In this case it is forfeiture.” Tucson Ecumenical Council v. Ezell, 704 F. Supp. 980 (D. Ariz. 1989).

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