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NBC affiliate WWLP said this, in discussing remarks made by Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy as part of his primary challenge of Democratic Senator Ed Markey:

At a Tuesday press conference, Kennedy was joined by Black leaders from across the state including Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins and Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer. Kennedy said Markey opposed desegregating Boston Public Schools in the 1970s.

Kennedy also highlighted Markey’s support for a 1981 amendment to prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from implementing, or the courts from enforcing, proposed IRS regulations to deny tax-exempt status to private schools that discriminated against racial minorities, an issue that the Kennedy campaign said was thrust to the forefront by Bob Jones University, which had prohibited interracial dating and marriage among students.

“The senator’s time would be better spent reconciling his own history with the civil rights movement over the course of the past 50 years,” he said. “Senator Markey has been in government for nearly 50 years. He has served in times of tremendous consequence. He’s gotten it wrong over and over. So he attacked my family.”

Now Markey’s record on busing has been debated as nauseam in the primary debates, but I’m interested in the part in bold. My question is, has Markey discussed his support for the 1981 amendment prohibiting the IRS from denying tax-exempt status to colleges on the basis of the colleges engaging in racial discrimination?

Did he discuss it either back then or in the course of the current primary campaign? And if the latter did he stand by the vote or express regret for it?

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Has Markey discussed past votes to preserve tax-exempt status for racist colleges?

[H]as Markey discussed his support for the 1981 amendment prohibiting the IRS from denying tax-exempt status to colleges on the basis of the colleges engaging in racial discrimination?

Did he discuss it either back then or in the course of the current primary campaign? And if the latter did he stand by the vote or express regret for it?

I could fine no discussion by then-Representative Markey concerning his vote in 1981, nor any comments since.

My search included the Congressional Record as well as the usual web searches with various terms.


The particular amendment was H.Amdt.197 to H.R.4121,

An amendment to prohibit the use of funds to enforce court orders that would cause the loss of tax exempt status to private religious, or church operated schools. The amendment makes this provision effective as of August 22, 1978.

The debate on the amendment was in the Congressional Record, July 30, 1981, pp. 18789-18796. Mr. Markey did not speak on the amendment.

In summary, the amendment was offered by Mr. Ashcroft, who among other reason, complained that the IRS had entered into a "sweetheart deal" with some plaintiffs that would allow the IRS to impose rules not approved by Congress; that such rules violated the Congressional intent of the "Dornan and Ashbrook amendment" to a prior law; that (here, quoting background by Mr. Dornan) "Although the IRS is fully culpable for its role in helping to cause the present crisis, at least three federal judges are equally guilty of misconduct. Judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Skelly Wright and George Hart have openly joined in furtherance of the goals of the collusive litigation."

[Note: Much of the speech by supporters of the amendment reads like a "deep state" conspiracy by the IRS, hence the summary.]

Mr. LOTT. [...]

The first step in that history makes it absolutely clear that this is not a racial issue. Ten years ago, during the first round of the Green case, the District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Internal Revenue Code, not the Constitution, denies income tax exemptions to schools guilty of racial discrimination. The Supreme Court has never reviewed that ruling on the merits, although it will be asked to do so this fall by Bob Jones University1, but the validity of that ruling is in no way challenged by this amendment. The IRS remains free to deny exemptions to any school proven guilty of discrimination, and I have no doubt they will continue to enforce that standard as vigorously as they have in the past. Indeed, in the reopened Green litigation the court ruled last year that the IRS had faultlessly enforced the regulations and orders as they existed in 1978, the date specified in this amendment. [Emboldening added.]

The issue, then, is not racial discrimination but simple fairness for parents and schoolchildren. The original version of this amendment was passed because the IRS under the previous administration [President Carter] wanted to do away with the formality of having to prove a school guilty before revoking its exemption. The Congress quite rightly felt that the most basic principles of due process dictated that any person or any organization in a civilized society must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and we prevented the IRS from changing the law by denying it funds for that purpose.


H.Amdt.197 passed with ayes 337, noes 83, not voting 14.

In the 97th Congress, House Democrats held a majority (243-191). Given the vote on the amendment, many Democrats had to have voted with Mr. Markey for the amendment to pass overwhelmingly.

Furthermore, since Mr. Lott raised the issue with Bob Jones University, there is no reason to believe that Mr. Markey's vote was, in any way, related to that school or the issues with that school.

It should be noted the Mr. Markey "was educated at Immaculate Conception School and Malden Catholic High School".

His vote could have been to preserve religious freedom in private schools, or to insure "due process", or other reasons having nothing to do with racial discrimination.


1 BOB JONES UNIVERSITY, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES. GOLDSBORO CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS, INC., Petitioner v. UNITED STATES., Decided May 24, 1983. Held: Neither petitioner qualifies as a tax-exempt organization under § 501(c)(3). Pp. 585-605.

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