Religious Liberty Wins Unanimous Victory at U.S. Supreme Court

The Roberts Court, April 23, 2021. Seated from left to right: Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor Standing from left to right: Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett. Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.

On Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of a faith-based adoption and foster care agency from Philadelphia.

The city of Philadelphia ended foster-care referrals to Catholic Social Services in 2018, because Catholic Social Services declined to place children with same-sex couples.

The city’s decision prevented the charity from placing new foster children with families in Philadelphia — all because Catholic Social Services wanted to operate according to its religious convictions regarding marriage.

In a statement, Alliance Defending Freedom General Counsel Kristen Waggoner said, “The government can’t single out people of certain beliefs to punish, sideline, or discriminate against them. We’re grateful for the good decision today consistent with that principle.”

This is a stunning victory for religious freedom in America.

As same-sex marriage and so-called “nondiscrimination” legislation have advanced across much of the nation, faith-based adoption and foster care agencies have faced tremendous pressure to violate their religious convictions or stop serving their communities altogether.

Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms that our laws must respect religious liberty.

The fact that the ruling was unanimous makes this decision all the more significant.

Rule Change Could Make it Easier for Counties to Tax Property at Churches

A proposed rule-change at the Arkansas Assessment Coordination Division could make it easier for county assessors to collect taxes on property that churches, charities, and other nonprofits own.

Currently, the Arkansas Constitution makes it clear that churches and charities are tax-exempt, and churches and charities generally don’t pay taxes on property they own unless they make some sort of profit from it.

The proposed rules would require churches and charities to file forms and paperwork with the county assessor that prove their property is exempt from taxation “beyond a reasonable doubt under Arkansas law.”

That’s a very high standard — and it gives county assessors tremendous leeway.

The forms also require churches and charities to give the county information that many people would consider private — like information about their staff’s salaries, bonuses, and other compensation. It isn’t clear why the county would need to know that kind of information.

If a county assessor decided to reject the nonprofit’s application for a tax exemption, the county could force the organization to pay taxes on anything it owns — land, buildings, vehicles, electronic equipment, machinery, and other property — as if it were a business.

The new rule could hurt many different nonprofits in Arkansas, including:

  • Churches
  • Charities like the Salvation Army or Union Rescue Mission
  • Christian summer camps
  • Private schools and private colleges and universities
  • Food ministries
  • Nonprofit hospitals and medical clinics
  • Homeless shelters

Charities and churches contribute millions of dollars to the economy each year by serving their communities. That’s part of the reason the Arkansas Legislature voted to designate religious organizations and charities as essential earlier this year. Making it easier for counties to tax property at churches and charities hurts everybody.

Please contact the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration today, and ask them to opposed Rule 6.01 – 6.04, the Property Tax Exemption rule that affects nonprofits, charities, and churches.

Email your comments against the rules to All comments are due by Monday, May 31.

You can read the proposed rules here. You can read some of the paperwork churches and charities would have to file here.