Protecting Speech from the Heart: How Citizens United Strikes Down Political Speech Restrictions on Churches and Charities

20 Pages Posted: 25 May 2011 Last revised: 18 Sep 2014

Paul D. Weitzel

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Date Written: May 20, 2011

Abstract

This paper shows that tax deductible charities have a constitutional right to speak about politics. This ban was last upheld in Regan v. Taxation with Representation of Washington. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission rejected the reasoning of Regan, thereby abrogating the ban on political speech by 501(c)(3) organizations.

Regan held that 501(c)(3) organizations could be prohibited from speaking about politics because they would still be able to speak through affiliate organizations. Citizens United rejected this argument when applied to for-profit corporations, and that reasoning applies equally to non-profit organizations. Regan also relies on the distinction between subsidies and punishments, which is also untenable in light of Citizens United.

Keywords: 501(c)(3), Citizens United, charities, free speech, political speech, tax exempt

Suggested Citation

Weitzel, Paul D., Protecting Speech from the Heart: How Citizens United Strikes Down Political Speech Restrictions on Churches and Charities (May 20, 2011). Texas Review of Law & Politics, 16 Tex. Rev. L. & Pol. 155-174 (2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1848267

Paul D. Weitzel (Contact Author)

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP ( email )

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