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And the actions of Congress since 1970 leave no doubt that the IRS reached the correct conclusion in exercising its authority. Petitioners' asserted interests cannot be accommodated with that compelling governmental interest, and no less restrictive means are available to achieve the governmental interest. Goldsboro admits that it maintains racially discriminatory policies, and, contrary to Bob Jones University's contention that it is not racially discriminatory, discrimination on the basis of racial affiliation and association is a form of racial discrimination. J., Opinion of the Court CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court. To effectuate these views, Negroes were completely excluded until 1971. The University subsequently filed returns under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act for the period from December 1, 1970, to December 31, 1975, and paid a tax [p582] totalling on one employee for the calendar year of 1975. 1150 (DC 1971), with approval, the Court of Appeals concluded that § 501(c)(3) must be read against the background of charitable trust law. For more than 60 years, the IRS and its predecessors have constantly been called upon to interpret these and comparable provisions, and in doing so have referred consistently to principles of charitable trust law. The correctness of the Commissioner's conclusion that a racially discriminatory private school "is not ‘charitable' within the common law concepts reflected in . D The actions of Congress since 1970 leave no doubt that the IRS reached the correct conclusion in exercising its authority. Petitioner Bob Jones University, however, contends that it is not racially discriminatory. 230, defined "racially nondiscriminatory policy as to students" as meaning that the school admits the students of any race to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at that school, and that the school does not discriminate on the basis of race in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs. The Solicitor of Internal Revenue looked to the common law of charitable trusts in construing that provision, and noted that "generally bequests for the benefit and advantage of the general public are valid as charities." Sol. We granted certiorari to decide whether petitioners, nonprofit private schools that prescribe and enforce racially discriminatory admissions standards on the basis of religious doctrine, qualify as tax-exempt organizations under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. § 501(c)(3), On January 12, 1970, a three-judge District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the IRS from according tax-exempt status to private schools in Mississippi that discriminated as to admissions on the basis of race. From 1971 to May, 1975, the University accepted no applications from unmarried Negroes, 427 U. 160 (1976), prohibiting racial exclusion from private schools, the University revised its policy. After its request for a refund was denied, the University instituted the present action, seeking to recover the it had paid to the IRS. The court accordingly ordered the IRS to pay the University the refund it claimed and rejected the IRS's counterclaim. To be eligible for an exemption under that section, an institution must be "charitable" in the common law sense, and therefore must not be contrary to public policy. The Executive Branch has consistently placed its support behind eradication of racial discrimination. In 1957, President Eisenhower employed military forces to ensure compliance with federal standards in school desegregation programs. It is, of course, not unknown for independent agencies or the Executive Branch to misconstrue the intent of a statute; Congress can and often does correct such misconceptions, if the courts have not done so. The evidence of congressional approval of the policy embodied in Revenue Ruling 71-447 goes well beyond the failure of Congress to act on legislative proposals. It emphasizes that it now allows all races to enroll, subject only to its restrictions on the conduct of all students, including its prohibitions of association between men and women of different races, and of interracial marriage. Bob Jones University was founded in Florida in 1927. C., in 1940, and has been incorporated as an eleemosynary institution in South Carolina since 1952. That same year, the Bureau of Internal Revenue expressed a similar view of the charitable deduction section of the estate tax contained in the Revenue Act of 1918, ch. Syllabus Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (IRC) provides that "[c]orporations . But in 1970, the IRS concluded that it could no longer justify allowing tax-exempt status under § 501(c)(3) to private schools that practiced racial discrimination, and in 1971 issued Revenue Ruling 71-447 providing that a private school not having a racially nondiscriminatory policy as to students is not "charitable" within the common law concepts reflected in §§ 170 and 501(c)(3). 81-3, petitioner Bob Jones University, while permitting unmarried Negroes to enroll as students, denies admission to applicants engaged in an interracial marriage or known to advocate interracial marriage or dating. Racially discriminatory educational institutions cannot be viewed as conferring a public benefit within the "charitable" concept discussed earlier, [p596] or within the congressional intent underlying § 170 and § 501(c)(3). [p603] As to such schools, it is argued that the IRS construction of § 170 and § 501(c)(3) violates their free exercise rights under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. 158 (1944), for example, the Court held that neutrally cast child labor laws prohibiting sale of printed materials on public streets could be applied to prohibit children from dispensing religious literature. (1959); Bogert § 369, at 65-67; 4 Scott § 368, at 2855-2856. This I am sure is no accident, for there is nothing in the language [p613] of § 501(c)(3) that supports the result obtained by the Court. Nowhere is there to be found some additional, undefined public policy requirement. The Court seizes the words "charitable contribution" and with little discussion concludes that "[o]n its face, therefore, § 170 reveals that Congress' intention was to provide tax benefits to organizations serving charitable purposes," intimating that this implies some unspecified common law charitable trust requirement. The Court would have been well advised to look to subsection (c) where, as § 170(a)(1) indicates, Congress has defined a "charitable contribution": For purposes of this section, the term "charitable contribution" means a contribution or gift to or for the use of . This, of course, is of considerable significance in determining the intended meaning of the statute. Therefore, it is my view that, unless and until Congress affirmatively amends § 501(c)(3) to require more, the IRS is without authority to deny petitioners § 501(c)(3) status. organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable . Until 1970, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) granted tax-exempt status under § 501(c)(3) to private schools, independent of racial admissions policies, and granted charitable deductions for contributions to such schools under § 170 of the IRC. Whatever may be the rationale for such private schools' policies, and however sincere the rationale may be, racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy. III Petitioners contend that, even if the Commissioner's policy is valid as to nonreligious private schools, that policy cannot constitutionally be applied to schools that engage in racial discrimination on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. The Court's reading of § 501(c)(3) does not render meaningless Congress' action in specifying the eight categories of presumptively exempt organizations, as petitioners suggest. Yet contemporary standards must be considered in determining whether given activities provide a public benefit and are entitled to the charitable tax exemption. Charitable trust law also makes clear that the definition of "charity" depends upon contemporary standards. In approaching this statutory construction question, the Court quite adeptly avoids the statute it is construing. An entity must be (1) a corporation, or community chest, fund, or foundation, (2) organized for one of the eight enumerated purposes, (3) operated on a nonprofit basis, and (4) free from involvement in lobbying activities and political campaigns. [a] corporation, trust, or community chest, fund, or foundation . A provision of that Act provided an exemption for "corporations, companies, or associations organized and conducted solely for charitable, religious, or educational purposes." Ch. The 1909 Act provided an exemption for any corporation or association organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes, no part of the net income of which inures to the benefit of any private stockholder or individual. Prior to 1970, when the charted course was abruptly changed, the IRS had continuously interpreted § 501(c)(3) and its predecessors in accordance with the view I have expressed above. The IRS answered, consistent with its longstanding position, by maintaining a lack of authority to deny the tax exemption if the schools met the specified requirements of § 501(c)(3). Following the close of the litigation, the IRS published its new position in Revenue Ruling 71-447, stating that a school asserting a right to the benefits provided for in section 501(c)(3) of the Code as being organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes must be a common law charity in order to be exempt under that section. [p623] Petitioners are each organized for the "instruction or training of the individual for the purpose of improving or developing his capabilities," 26 CFR § 1.501(c)(3) - 1(d)(3) (1982), and thus are organized for "educational purposes" within the meaning of § 501(c)(3). There is no indication that either petitioner has been involved in lobbying activities or political campaigns. That court found an "identity for present purposes" between the and we affirm in each. organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable . Petitioners argue that the plain language of the statute guarantees them tax-exempt status. The institution's purpose must not be so at odds with the common community conscience as to undermine any public benefit that might otherwise be conferred. II A In Revenue Ruling 71-447, the IRS formalized the policy, first announced in 1970, that § 170 and § 501(c)(3) embrace the common law "charity" concept. They emphasize the absence of any language in the statute expressly requiring all exempt organizations to be "charitable" in the common law sense, and they contend that the disjunctive "or" separating the categories in § 501(c)(3) precludes such a reading. 447, Congress expressly reconfirmed this view with respect to the charitable deduction provision: The exemption from taxation of money or property devoted to charitable and other purposes is based upon the theory that the Government is compensated for the loss of revenue by its relief from financial burdens which would otherwise have to be met by appropriations from other public funds, and by the benefits resulting from the promotion of the general welfare. B We are bound to approach these questions with full awareness that determinations of public benefit and public policy are sensitive matters with serious implications for the institutions affected; a declaration that a given institution is not "charitable" should be made only where there can be no doubt that the activity involved is contrary to a fundamental public policy. Congress, in Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub. It is apparent that Congress intended that list to have the same meaning in both [p587] sections. These statements clearly reveal the legal background against which Congress enacted the first charitable exemption statute in 1894: charities were to be given preferential treatment because they provide a benefit to society. In § 170, Congress used the list of organizations in defining the term "charitable contributions." On its face, therefore, § 170 reveals that Congress' intention was to provide tax benefits to organizations serving charitable purposes. to public charitable uses, which has long been recognized as a leading authority in this country, Lord Mac Naghten stated: "Charity," in its legal sense, comprises four principal divisions: trusts for the relief of poverty; trusts 4 A. What little floor debate occurred on the charitable exemption provision of the 1894 Act and similar sections of later statutes leaves no doubt that Congress deemed the specified organizations entitled to tax benefits because they served desirable public purposes. In floor debate on a similar provision in 1917, for example, Senator Hollis articulated the rationale: For every dollar that a man contributes for these public charities, educational, scientific, or otherwise, the public gets 100 per cent.
Few social or political issues in our history have been more vigorously debated and more extensively ventilated than the issue of racial discrimination, particularly in education. There can thus be no question that the interpretation of § 170 and § 501(c)(3) announced by the IRS in 1970 was correct. providing a public benefit," at 614-615, but suggests that Congress itself fully defined what organizations provide a public benefit, through the list of eight categories of exempt organizations contained in § 170 and § 501(c)(3). 997 (1971), Fagin's school for educating English boys in the art of picking pockets would be an "educational" institution under that definition. A distinctive feature of America's tradition has been respect for diversity. The Court points out that there is a strong national policy in this country against racial discrimination. which is not disqualified for tax exemption under section 501(c) (3) by reason of attempting to influence legislation, and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office. Making a more fruitful inquiry, the Court next turns to the legislative history of § 501(c)(3) and finds that Congress intended [p615] in that statute to offer a tax benefit to organizations that Congress believed were providing a public benefit. But then the Court leaps to the conclusion that this history is proof Congress intended that an organization seeking § 501(c)(3) status "must fall within a category specified in that section what organizations are serving a public purpose and providing a public benefit within the meaning of § 501(c)(3), and has clearly set forth in § 501(c)(3) the characteristics of such organizations. In subsequent Acts, Congress continued to broaden the list of exempt purposes. The Revenue Act of 1921 expanded the groups to which the exemption applied to include "any community chest, fund, or foundation" and added "literary" endeavors to the list of exempt purposes. (ii) An organization, such as a primary or secondary school, a college, or a professional or trade school, which has a regularly scheduled curriculum, a regular faculty, and a regularly enrolled body of students in attendance at a place where the educational activities are regularly carried on. The circumstances under which this change in interpretation was made suggest that it is entitled to very little deference. So long as the Congress has not acted to set forth a national policy respecting denial of tax exemptions to private schools, it is improper for the IRS or any other branch of the Federal Government to seek denial of tax-exempt status. Where in addition to these circumstances Congress has shown time and time again that it is ready to enact positive legislation to change the Tax Code when it desires, this Court has no business finding that Congress has adopted the new IRS position by failing to enact legislation to reverse it. The case was remanded to the District Court with instructions to dismiss the University's claim for a refund and to reinstate the IRS's counterclaim. giving special emphasis to the Christian religion and the ethics revealed in the Holy scriptures. The school requires its high school students to take Bible-related courses, and begins each class with prayer. Sincere adherents advocating contrary views have ventilated the subject for well over three decades. Only one month after the IRS announced its position in 1970, Congress held its first hearings on this precise issue. In view of its prolonged and acute awareness of so important an issue, Congress' failure to act on the bills proposed on this subject provides added support for concluding that Congress acquiesced in the IRS rulings of 19. Based on this interpretation, Orientals and Negroes are Hamitic, Hebrews are Shemitic, and Caucasians are Japhethitic. By stipulation, the IRS agreed to abate its assessment for 1969 and most of 1970 to reflect the fact that the IRS did not begin enforcing its policy of denying tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools until November 30, 1970. Nevertheless, the two sections are closely related; both seek to achieve the same basic goal of encouraging the development of certain organizations through the grant of tax benefits. Stone, Federal Income Taxation 220-222 (5th ed.1980). [p583] C Goldsboro Christian Schools is a nonprofit corporation located in Goldsboro, N. Like Bob Jones University, it was established to conduct an institution or institutions of learning . Articles of Incorporation ¶ 3(a); Complaint ¶ 6, reprinted in App. Since its incorporation in 1963, Goldsboro Christian Schools has maintained a racially discriminatory admissions policy based upon its interpretation of the Bible. Failure of Congress to modify the IRS rulings of 19, of which Congress was, by its own studies and by public discourse, constantly reminded, and Congress' awareness of the denial of tax-exempt status for racially discriminatory schools when enacting other and related legislation make out an unusually strong case of legislative acquiescence in and ratification by implication of the 19 rulings. Equal Educational Opportunity: Hearings before the Senate Select Committee on Equal Educational Opportunity, 91st Cong., 2d Sess., 1991 (1970). Administration's Change in Federal Policy Regarding the Tax Status of Racially Discriminatory Private Schools: Hearing before the House Committee on Ways and Means, 97th Cong., 2d Sess. Nonaction by Congress is not often a useful guide, but the nonaction here is significant. there have been no fewer than 13 bills introduced to overturn the IRS interpretation of § 501(c)(3). Cultural or biological mixing of the races is regarded as a violation of God's command. As a result, the amount of the counterclaim was reduced to 6,190.99. After the Court granted certiorari, the Government filed a motion to dismiss, informing the Court that the Department of the Treasury intended to revoke Revenue Ruling 71-447 and other pertinent rulings and to recognize § 501(c)(3) exemptions for petitioners. Thereafter, the Government informed the Court that it would not revoke the Revenue Rulings, and withdrew its request that the actions be dismissed as moot. The language of the two sections is in most respects identical, and the Commissioner and the courts consistently have applied many of the same standards in interpreting those sections. To the extent that § 170 "aids in ascertaining the meaning" of § 501(c)(3), therefore, it is "entitled to great weight," at 613. 35 (1969), and described "charitable" as "a term that has been used in the law of trusts for hundreds of years." at 43. Reiling, Federal Taxation: What Is a Charitable Organization? The origins of such exemptions lie in the special privileges that have long been extended to charitable trusts. More than a century ago, this Court announced the caveat that is critical in this case: [I]t has now become an established principle of American law that courts of chancery will sustain and protect .