November 10, 2017

 Professor Edward Zelinsky’s new book “Taxing the Church” focuses on taxes and their impact on religious institutions. Professor Miranda Perry Fleischer of the University of San Diego, Professor Brian Galle of Georgetown University and Professor Daniel Hemel of the University of Chicago visited Cardozo and participated in a panel discussion about the book, moderated by Cardozo Professor Laura Cunningham.

Professor Zelinsky’s book explores the taxation and exemption of churches and other religious institutions, both empirically and normatively; church-state entanglements with respect to taxing or exempting churches and other sectarian entities; and discusses improvements that can be made in legal and tax policy trade-offs, such as the protection of internal church communications and the expansion of the churches’ sales tax liabilities

Professors Hemel, Perry Fleischer and Gale traded ideas and analysis of the book’s main ideas including definitions and differences between enforcement entanglement and borderline entanglement and the idea of religious institutions being viewed as subsidies. Perry Fleischer said, “The book does a great job in laying out the way churches are taxed. We think of them as tax-exempt but as Ed points out they are subject to a number of other taxes.”

Professor Hemel commented that “we have tax consequences for families; there’s a lot of entanglement between the family and the state—so why are there no tax consequences for the church?”

“I was happy to have a chance to revisit some issues that are timely,” said Perry Fleischer. “Is the charitable deduction a subsidy or is it necessary for measurement reasons?”

“I think people will think about tax and religion through the lens of this book,” said Hemel.

Gale said the book “does a nice job developing the content of what entanglement means; why is it troubling as a constitutional concept, to have certain relationships between the state and organized expressions of faith.”

Professor Zelinsky, a longtime faculty member at Cardozo, thanked the panelists and his colleagues, and emphasized that “legal scholarship is an important value of civil democratic debate at a time when this society desperately needs civil democratic debate.”

To watch the panel in its entirety click here.