What is a Necessary Bible?

Photo Credit: Moon's Rare Books

Photo Credit: Moon’s Rare Books

Can a debtor keep a valuable Book of Mormon even after filing chapter 7 bankruptcy?

A debtor in southern Illinois is challenging the trustee’s efforts to recover and sell such a book – authenticated as one of the first editions published of the Book of Mormon, and appraised in 2003 for $10,000.

The debtor had claimed the book as exempt under the Illinois personal property exemption statute which allows for an exemption in “[t]he necessary wearing apparel, bible, school books, and family pictures of the debtor and the debtor’s dependents[.]”

The bankruptcy court agreed with the trustee that the exemption was not proper due to the intent of the exemption statute and value of the book. But the district court reversed finding that the value of the book was not relevant to whether it was necessary.

Discussion of the case at Credit Slips notes that whether the book is a Bible for the purposes of the Illinois exemption statute does not appear to be at issue.

Bankruptcy Beat at the Wall Street Journal also discusses the case and notes some of the unusual exemptions states have, such as “all furnaces or stoves used for heating” in Maine and a church pew as long as it is not worth more than $500 in Michigan.

The court docket reflects that the trustee has filed a further appeal to the Seventh Circuit. The case name and number is Robinson v. Hagan, Trustee, No. 14-3585.

Updated 2/18/16: The court of appeals affirmed the district court and upheld the exemption of the Mormon bible based on the plain language of the statute at issue. (Link to In re Robinson)


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