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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Government Inspection of Donor and Membership Lists

Volume 2 . Chapter 6 . § 6-03.4
Key point 6-03.4. Church donor and membership lists are subject to government inspection, so long as the government has a compelling interest in obtaining this information.

Whether the government has the right to compel religious organizations to release the names of members and contributors is a hotly contested issue. In 1958, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the freedom to associate with others for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is a right protected by the First Amendment against governmental infringement, whether the beliefs sought to be advanced are political, economic, religious, or cultural. The Court acknowledged that the right of association is nowhere mentioned in the First Amendment, but it reasoned that such a right ...

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