Monday, March 22, 2010
Olatunde C. Johnson (Columbia) has posted The Story of Bob Jones University v. United States: Race, Religion, and Congress’ Extraordinary Acquiescence, in Statutory Interpretation Stories (William Eskridge & Elizabeth Garrett, eds.) (Foundation Press, 2010), on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
On May 25, 1983, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the IRS had authority to deny tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, Goldsboro Christian School, and other private and religious schools with racially discriminatory educational policies [Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983)]. The Court relied on the statute’s broad purpose and placed significant weight on Congress’ failure to enact legislation to overturn the IRS policy. A complete account of the legislative history, provided here, both supports and undercuts the Court’s opinion. More importantly, this story provides an account of the dynamic interaction among a Supreme Court critical of racial integration, a Congress divided on this issue, and a presidency at war with itself. In the end, the story suggests that Bob Jones may have a limited role in shaping interpretive methodology, but that the case reveals how all three branches of government (as well as the public) interact to shape a statute’s meaning.