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I.R.S. Lifts Tax Exemption From Church That Ran All-White School

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Washington--The Internal Revenue Service has revoked the tax-exempt status of a North Carolina church that formerly operated a private school that denied admission to blacks.

The tax agency's action is believed to be the first directed against a church affiliated with a racially discriminatory school, rather than against the school itself.

The Second Baptist Church of Goldsboro, which closed the Goldsboro Christian School after the end of the 1986-87 school year, filed a petition with the U.S. Tax Court here on Sept. 6 challenging the irs deci4sion, a court clerk said last week.

Bob Jones Case

The Goldsboro school gained national attention in the 1970's and early 1980's when it joined Bob Jones University in a suit contesting prior attempts by the irs to revoke their exemptions on the basis of their racially discriminatory policies. The institutions argued that the government's moves violated their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the tax agency's position in a landmark ruling in 1983, holding that the government's interest in prohibiting discrimination outweighed the schools' religious rights. The case, Bob Jones University v. United States, proved to be a major embarrassment for the Reagan Administration, which had argued that the irs policy of denying exemptions to discriminatory schools was invalid because it had not been authorized by the Congress.

The Goldsboro school was run by a nonprofit corporation affiliated with the church during the initial phases of the Bob Jones case. During the course of the litigation, the church itself took over operation of the school.

The church dropped the school's discriminatory admissions policy after the Bob Jones ruling, and it enrolled black students until it closed in 1987.

Frank Keith, a spokesman for the irs, confirmed last week that the agency subsequently revoked the church's tax-exempt status, but he declined to say on what date. Mr. Keith said the agency had made the decision "because the church operated a racially discriminatory private school."

Tom Harper, the church's pastor, could not be reached for comment last week.--tm

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