Loyalty oath for tax exemption:
Innocence: Negative burden of proof by loyalty oath.
The State of California allowed an exemption of property tax for veterans of World War II. Anyone desiring to claim the exemption was required to complete a standard form of application and submit the form with the local tax assessor. In 1954, the form was revised to add a loyalty oath which the applicant must sign which stated
“I do not advocate the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means, nor advocate the support of a foreign government against the United States in event of hostilities.”
The appellants refused to sign the oath contending the condition of requiring the oath in order to obtain a tax exemption was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court of America ruled as under:
“…when the constitutional right to speak is sought to be deterred by a State’s general taxing program due process demands that the speech be unencumbered until the State comes forward with sufficient proof to justify its inhibition. The State clearly has no such compelling interest at stake as to justify a short-cut procedure which must inevitably result in suppressing protected speech. Accordingly, though the validity of § 19 of Art. XX of the State Constitution be conceded arguendo, its enforcement through procedures which place the burdens of proof and persuasion on the taxpayer is a violation of due process. It follows from this that appellants could not be required to execute the declaration as a condition for obtaining a tax exemption or as a condition for the assessor proceeding further in determining whether they were entitled to such an exemption. Since the entire statutory procedure, by placing the burden of proof on the claimants, violated the requirements of due process, appellants were not obliged to take the first step in such a procedure.”