Louisiana court dismisses ACLU bid to end church sales tax exemptions

Posted: Friday, June 27, 2003

NEW ORLEANS (AP) An American Civil Liberties Union fight against Louisiana's sales tax exemption for churches and other religious groups is a state tax matter and doesn't belong in federal court, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

A U.S. district judge earlier struck down the exemptions, saying they were given for a religious purpose and violated separation of church and state.

The three-judge appeals panel said the ACLU could pursue the matter in state court.

Three exemptions are at issue. A 1996 law exempts churches and synagogues from paying sales taxes on purchases of Bibles, song books and religious textbooks. Exemptions were added in 1998 to cover religious camps and retreats, and purchases by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order.

Citing U.S. Supreme Court principles, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court in 1999 threw out sales tax exemptions for religious publications. The U.S. Supreme Court did not review the case so there is no nationwide precedent.

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