Argued: First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. County of Los Angeles — The U.S. Supreme Court will rule that it is impermissible to deny tax exemptions to organizations which refuse to participate in certain kinds of speech.
In an application for property tax exemptions, the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles refused to swear an oath that they did not advocate the overthrow of the Government of the United States and of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means nor advocate the support of a foreign government against the United States in the event of hostilities.
Justice Brennan writes in the majority opinion:
"It cannot be gainsaid that a discriminatory denial of a tax exemption for engaging in speech is a limitation on free speech. ...It is settled that speech can be effectively limited by the exercise of the taxing power.
To deny an exemption to claimants who engage in certain forms of speech is, in effect, to penalize them for such speech. Its deterrent effect is the same as if the State were to fine them for this speech. The appellees are plainly mistaken in their argument that, because a tax exemption is a "privilege" or "bounty," its denial may not infringe speech."