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Coit v. Green
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued December 9, 1971
Reargued December 8, 1971
Decided December 20, 1971
Full case name Coit v. Green
Citations 404 U.S. 997 (more)
404 U.S. 997, 92 S.Ct. 564, 30 L.Ed.2d 550 (1971)
Prior history Judgment for plaintiffs, aff'd per curiam sub nom. 92 S.Ct. 564, 30 L.Ed.2d 550 (D. Col. 1971)
Subsequent history Judgment explained in Bob Jones University v. Simon, 416 U.S. 725, 740, n. 11, 94 S.Ct. 2038, 2047, 40 L.Ed.2d 496 (1974), that this affirmance lacks precedential weight because no controversy remained in Green by the time the case reached this Court.
Using federal tax funds to finance private schools for purposes of segregation of students in segregation academies violates the IRS public tax fund rules, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because discrimination coupled with segregation is inherently unequal. District of Columbia district court affirmed.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Burger, joined by Unanimous
Laws applied
Section 501(c)(3) of IRC
Educational separation in the US prior to Brown v. Board of Education

Coit v. Green, 404 U.S. 997 (1971), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court affirmed a decision that a private school which practiced racial discrimination could not be eligible for a tax exemption. [1]


Historical Background

Several cases floundered after the landmark desegregation cases. American ideas of free labor at the demise of the Lochner era caused federal lawyers in the Civil Rights Section to attempt to create a labor-infused civil rights framework, which the "all deliberate speed" of Brown v. Board of Education stood upon as a means to progress constitutional law that swamped Plessy v. Ferguson. Coit v. Green developed the framework for later cases such as Prince Edward School Foundation v. U.S.,[2] and Doe and Rabago v. Kamehameha Schools/Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, et al..[3] All of these cases involve a post-civil war lawsuit banning racial exclusion in public buildings and facilities, as well as contracts, known as the Black Codes.

It is notable that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Lafayette Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan resigned from the Supreme Court Friday, September 17, 1971 after a debilitating stroke. He died eight days later. He was replaced by Warren E. Burger whereby this particular session of Burger court extended from Saturday, September 18, 1971 to January 6, 1972 when new Justices were appointed;[4] thus dismantling the Hugo Black formed Warren Courts as John Marshall Harlan II disbanded, and Rehnquist and Justice Powell joined.

Coit v. Green became the foundation for later finding that state tax exemptions to private charitable foundation were sufficient to establish state action under the Equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Summary of Findings

In Green v. Connally,[5] the court declared that neither IRC 501(c)(3) nor IRC 170 provided for tax-exempt status or deductible contributions to any organization operating a private school that discriminates in admissions on the basis of race. Since this time, if a school has adopted and announced a racially non-discriminatory admissions policy and has not taken any overt action to discriminate in admissions, the Service concludes that the school has a racially non-discriminatory admissions policy. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, specifically did not rule on the hypothetical possibility of a school which discriminated against minorities for religious reasons.

In the interim, the IRS took steps to implement the nondiscrimination requirement including Revenue Ruling 71-447, 1971-2 C.B. 230, Revenue Procedure 72-54, 1972-2 C.B. 834, Revenue Procedure 75-50, 1975-2 C.B. 587, and Revenue Ruling 75-231, 1975-1 C.B. 158. Without comment, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia at the end of 1971 for the families in this case.

Throwing off the shackles of Plessy v. Ferguson,[6] the long-term effect of Coit v. Green is for Desegregation to be inclusive of all schools. Desegregation was never intended to be just for public schools or justify private façades.

See also


  1. ^ See Green v. Kennedy, 309 F.Supp. 1127 (DC 1970), later decision reported sub nom. Green v. Connally, 330 F.Supp. 1150, summarily aff'd sub nom (African-Americans "need not be required to plead and show that, in the absence of illegal governmental encouragement, private institutions would not "elect to forgo 'favorable tax treatment, and that this will' result in the availability to complainants of services previously denied"); McGlotten v. Connally, 338 F.Supp. 448 (DC 1972); Pitts v. Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue, 333 F.Supp. 662 (ED Wis.1971) ("As perusal of these reported decisions reveals, the lower courts have not assumed that such allegations and proofs were somehow required by Article Three of the United States Constitution"); Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welf. Rights. Org., 426 U.S. at 64 (1976).
  2. ^ Prince Edward School Foundation v. U.S., 450 U.S. 944 (1981).
  3. ^ Doe and Rabago v. Kamehameha Schools/Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, et al., (2007).
  4. ^ The Burger Courts can be reviewed at Oyez.
  5. ^ Green v. Connally, 330 F.Supp. 1150 (D.D.C.), aff'd sub nom, Coit v. Green, 404 U.S. 997 (1971).
  6. ^ Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896).

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