Larson v. Valente 456 U.S. 228 (1982)

Author:Kenneth L. Karst

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Minnesota required charitable organizations to register and make disclosure when they solicited contributions. Religious organizations were exempted if more than half their contributions came from members. Members of the Unification Church sued in federal court to challenge the law's constitutionality. The Supreme Court, 5?4, held the law invalid.

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Justice WILLIAM J. BRENNAN, for the Court, said that the law effectively granted denominational preferences, favoring well-established churches and disfavoring newer churches or churches that preferred public solicitation. This discrimination took the case out of the purpose-effects-entanglement test of LEMON V. KURTZMAN (1971) for ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION. Instead, Brennan invoked a searching form of STRICT SCRUTINY, which the state here failed to pass. The state's purported interests in preventing abuse in solicitation were not supported in the record. In any case, Brennan said, the Minnesota law failed Lemon 's "entanglement" test by risking the politicizing of religion; one Minnesota legislator had remarked, "I'm not sure why we're so hot to regulate the...

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