501(c)(3)s and Public Policy Violation: A Fresh Look at Doctrine

Bob Jones University recently announced that it will regain its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status on March 1, 2017. The University lost its tax exemption more than 30 years ago in a landmark Supreme Court case, Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), due to racially discriminatory policies that it had at the time. This case is best-known for the adoption of the “Public Policy Doctrine” in the context of Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, which is getting debated these days in the context of same-sex marriage.