Taxes, Conscience, and the Constitution
Steven Douglas Smith
University of San Diego School of Law
San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-12
It was often claimed in the founding period - and it is claimed today by jurists like Justice Souter and by scholars like Noah Feldman - that citizens have a right of conscience not to pay taxes that will be used to advance religious teachings which they do not believe. But advocates of this position typically reject the corresponding claim that citizens have a right of conscience not to pay taxes that will be used to advance non-religious (or, in their view, anti-religious) teachings in which they do not believe. Are these positions reconcilable? This essay investigates the question and concludes that they are not. Nor is it a tenable position to hold that conscience is violated by the use of a citizen's tax dollars to promote any beliefs, religious or non-religious, that particular taxpayers reject. So jurists and scholars would do well to drop the selective and opportunistic appeal to the ostensible connection between taxes and conscience.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18
Keywords: conscience, taxes, religion
JEL Classification: K10working papers series
Date posted: October 19, 2005
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