Constitutionality of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1983

Headnotes: 

An amendment to the Social Security Act repealing the exemption for nonprofit organizations, including religious organizations, thereby requiring such organizations to pay and withhold tax with respect to the Social Security Fund, does not violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise or Establishment Clauses.

Assuming the tax payment and withholding requirement conflicts with the free exercise of religion in some cases, the government nevertheless has an overriding interest in securing the financial solvency of the fund and making sure that its coverage is comprehensive.

The repeal of the exemption does not violate the Establishment Clause because it has a clear secular purpose, does not inhibit or advance religion because it is neutral in its general application, and does not excessively entangle the government with religion. Social Security taxes are like other business and income taxes to which religious organizations are already subject.

Updated July 9, 2014