Elsewhere, life is predictable: the State Legislature wants a raise, Khomeini wants someone dead. Tiny Tim is running for mayor of New York, and Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith are pregnant, ecstatic about it, and planning to move up the date of their second marriage to each other.

Inside the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, though, the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union is sticking up for freedom of the press—and of religion.

The MCLU is seeking repeal of the 6 percent state sales tax on over-the-counter books (the tax has been in place since 1967), over-the-counter magazines (the tax has been in place since 1983), and printing. The group claims that the taxes violate First Amendment guarantees of freedom of the press (and also, incidentally, the Minnesota Constitution) and threaten religious liberty because they raise the price of the Bible and of religious books and magazines, and might potentially raise them so high that people wouldn’t be able to afford them anymore.

According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune article, MCLU Associate Director Matthew Stark announced their plans during a Christmas Day news conference.

The approach the group is taking is, well, novel. Stark went into a Golden Valley bookstore in early December and bought a King James Version Bible (sales tax 18 cents); a copy of Business Week (sales tax 12 cents); and a Webster’s New World Dictionary (sales tax 24 cents). He then wrote to the state revenue commissioner and asked him for a refund of the 54 cents in sales tax.

A separate letter to the commissioner sought a refund of $47.99 in sales tax that the MCLU paid to have its newsletter printed.

The MCLU figures that if it doesn’t get the $48.53 back, it will sue. If it does get the money back, it will assume that the revenue commissioner agrees that the taxes are unconstitutional. Either way, the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union will have a chance to be heard, and freedoms of all kinds will have their day.

The MCLU doesn’t talk on the phone or, apparently, answer all the mail it gets, but I did manage to find an attorney who does some work for them. He informed me in late February that nothing had happened yet: Stark’s two letters were still sitting in the state revenue commissioner’s office, and the MCLU was waiting for a response from that office before pursuing the matter further. The attorney did say that he expects the matter to go as far as the appellate court, possibly even further. Because of state and federal data privacy laws, the Minnesota Department of Revenue wasn’t able to confirm the status of Stark’s letter to the revenue commissioner.

As much as I’d like to believe that the MCLU has the best interests of all Minnesotans at heart, there are some aspects of this case and of ACLU behavior in general that keep me skeptical. For one thing, the American Civil Liberties Union has, over the years, acquired the reputation of gleefully causing Nativity sets to be banned from the courthouse lawns of this Christian nation. It’s hard for me to understand how this project of the MCLU—ostensibly to promote religious freedom by eliminating the tax on Bibles—fits in with that behavior. Somehow that Christmas Day news conference haunts me.

In addition, it’s patently clear that a 6 percent sales tax on Bibles, which is no higher than the tax on other books, poses no infringement on freedom of the press or freedom of religion. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Matthew Stark explained that a sales tax means that the government is intervening in the relationship between the publisher and the buyer, which is true—but it’s also true of all forms of taxation. Is this project just a minnow which the MCLU plans ultimately to use on a much bigger fish?

Mostly, though, what would bother me if I were a Minnesotan—and even if I were a Minnesotan who wanted that particular tax, or even all taxes, abolished—is that the MCLU doesn’t seem to be available for comment. A recording explains that they don’t do business over the phone. I wrote to Associate Director Stark at the address the phone recording gave me, including my home phone number and a stamped, self-addressed envelope in case he preferred to write to me, and I haven’t heard from him. The attorney I talked to—who works for the MCLU—couldn’t exactly tell me who the director of the group was. I guess I could call the recording again, get the MCLU mailing address, and then write to Stark and ask him . . . but never mind.