Exploring New Approaches to Unsettled Legal Questions

Tag: Touro Competition in Law and Religion

Religious Accommodation or Unlawful Favoritism? Examining the Constitutionality of the Parsonage Exemption

by Alec Soghomon­ian*

The First Amendment’s Reli­gion Claus­es pro­vide that “Con­gress shall make no law respect­ing the estab­lish­ment of reli­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free exer­cise there­of .…” The Reli­gion Claus­es clear­ly pro­hib­it both the Fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments from estab­lish­ing an offi­cial state reli­gion or hin­der­ing reli­gious prac­tice to such an extent that it results in a con­sti­tu­tion­al infringe­ment. How­ev­er, the Supreme Court has long acknowl­edged that absent those two clear com­mands “there is room for play in the joints” when address­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of gov­ern­ment action that impli­cates reli­gious belief. Does a tax ben­e­fit that pro­vides a finan­cial ben­e­fit to a lim­it­ed class of reli­gious employ­ees and their employ­ers vio­late the Estab­lish­ment Clause? In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Alec Soghomon­ian (‘22) argues that the Par­son­age Exemp­tion, found in 26 U.S.C. § 107(2) of the Unit­ed States tax code, unlaw­ful­ly pro­vides a ben­e­fit to reli­gious employ­ees and employ­ers because it does not extend to sim­i­lar­ly sit­u­at­ed non-reli­gious institutions.

Protecting Prisoners: The Fight on Narrow Tailoring

by Staci Cox*

What evi­den­tiary bur­den must pris­ons must sat­is­fy in order to show that its pol­i­cy restrict­ing an inmate’s reli­gious exer­cise is suf­fi­cient­ly nar­row­ly tai­lored under Reli­gious Land Use and Insti­tu­tion­al­ized Per­sons Act (RLUIPA)? Staci Cox (’17) exam­ines this ques­tion, raised at the Touro Law School Moot Court Com­pe­ti­tion on April 7th, 2016. In assess­ing whether a pris­on’s pol­i­cy that restricts reli­gious exer­cise is suf­fi­cient­ly nar­row­ly tai­lored under RLUIPA, courts exam­ine the reli­gious exemp­tions already pro­vid­ed to inmates with­in the facil­i­ty; if no exemp­tions are already pro­vid­ed, courts ask whether the prison could effec­tu­ate its pol­i­cy through less restric­tive means, with­out undu­ly bur­den­ing oth­er inmates or strain­ing prison oper­a­tions. This con­tri­bu­tion argues that, in order to demon­strate that their poli­cies are suf­fi­cient­ly nar­row­ly tai­lored under RLUIPA, pris­ons must sat­is­fy a sig­nif­i­cant evi­den­tiary bur­den by show­ing: the fre­quen­cy with which cur­rent exemp­tions are used, the costs of pro­vid­ing addi­tion­al exemp­tions, and the extent would threat­en the safe­ty and secu­ri­ty of inmates.

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