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WALZ V. TAX COMM'N OF CITY OF NEW YORK, 397 U. S. 664 (1970)

U.S. Supreme Court

Walz v. Tax Comm'n of City of New York, 397 U.S. 664 (1970)

Walz v. Tax Comm'n of the City of New York

No. 135

Argued November 19, 1969

Decided May 4, 1970

397 U.S. 664


Appellant property owner unsuccessfully sought an injunction in the New York courts to prevent the New York City Tax Commission from granting property tax exemptions to religious organizations for properties used solely for religious worship, as authorized by the state constitution and the implementing statute providing for tax exemptions for property used exclusively for religious, educational, or charitable purposes. Appellant contended that the exemptions, as applied to religious bodies, violated provisions prohibiting establishment of religion under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.


1. The First Amendment tolerates neither governmentally established religion nor governmental interference with religion. Pp. 397 U. S. 667-672.

2. The legislative purpose of tax exemptions is not aimed at establishing, sponsoring, or supporting religion, and New York's legislation simply spares the exercise of religion from the burden of property taxation levied on private profit institutions. Pp. 397 U. S. 672-674.

3. The tax exemption creates only a minimal and remote involvement between church and state, far less than taxation of churches would entail, and it restricts the fiscal relationship between them, thus tending to complement and reinforce the desired separation insulating each from the other. Pp. 397 U. S. 674-676.

4. Freedom from taxation for two centuries has not led to an established church or religion, and, on the contrary, has helped to guarantee the free exercise of all forms of religious belief. Pp. 397 U. S. 676-680.

24 N.Y.2d 30, 246 N.E.2d 517, affirmed.

Page 397 U. S. 666

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