Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock

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In Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional a Texas an exemption from sales tax for religious organizations.

Texas exempted from its sales tax "[p]eriodicals that are published or distributed by a religious faith and that consist wholly of writings promulgating the teaching of the faith and books that consist wholly of writings sacred to a religious faith." Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 151.312 (1982). The question presented was whether this exemption violates the Establishment Clause or the Free Press Clause of the First Amendment when the State denies a like exemption for other publications.

The Court held that, when confined exclusively to publications advancing the tenets of a religious faith, the exemption runs afoul of the Establishment Clause, The Court did not reach the question whether it contravenes the Free Press Clause as well.

Justice William Brennan wrote the plurality opinion for the Court. The change in Justices since this decision was rendered makes it a candidate for being overturned.[1]

Texas would later amend the section referenced above, permitting sales tax exemptions on "[p]eriodicals and writings, including those presented on audio tape, videotape, and computer disk, that are published and distributed by a religious, philanthropic, charitable, historical, scientific, or other similar organization that is not operated for profit, but excluding an educational organization". Thus, as an example, the in-house bookstore of Prestonwood Baptist Church is allowed to exempt the published writings of Jack Graham from sales tax (since he is the Senior Pastor), but would have to collect sales taxes on books written by other authors (such as Joel Rosenberg).


  1. Essay:Reversible Court Decisions