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Larson v. Valente

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Brief Fact Summary. Certain charitable organizations were required to provide a financial disclosure statement while others were not.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under the Establishment Clause one religion cannot be preferred over another.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.

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Facts. Larson (Petitioner) was responsible for the implementation of the Minnesota Charitable Solicitation Act (Act). This Act regulated charitable organizations that receive funds from the public. In 1978, the 50% rule was instituted that required all religious organizations receiving more than 50% of all contributions from non-members to make a full financial disclosure each year.

Issue. Does state statute discriminate amongst religious organizations in violation of the Establishment Clause?

Held. Yes. The 50% rule is arbitrarily drawn and based on three flawed premises: 1) when members contribute they will supervise solicitation activities carefully; 2) membership control is an adequate safeguard against fraudulent activity; and 3) the need for public disclosure increase with outside donation amounts.

Discussion. Freedom of religion would not exist if the state were allowed to provide favorable treatment to certain religions. The Establishment Clause requires legislatures and citizens to treat all religions with the same respect and deference they afford their own.

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