by Dr. D ~ November 26th, 2013
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A federal judge has ruled that the housing tax exemption for ministers is unconstitutional. Here’s the story from CitizenLink:
A federal judge in Wisconsin issued an opinion Friday saying housing allowances for clergy members are unconstitutional. If carried out, the ruling would affect pastors and their families across the country.
Passed by Congress in 1954, the Clergy Housing Allowance Clarification Act protects ministers from paying income tax on compensation that goes toward housing. The Freedom from Religious Foundation (FFRF) filed suit against U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and acting IRS commissioner Daniel Werfel. …
In her decision, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb claims the exemption “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”
Crabb knows that previous decisions do not agree, and in fact, she kept her decision from going into effect while the case is ongoing.
Better yet read also this article from the Blaze: “Atheist Activists’ Big Legal Win Against the IRS Could Spell Major Trouble for Clergy Salaries”
Response: The housing allowance is a major part of the compensation package for ministers and their families. If the atheists are ultimately successful in this lawsuit then nearly every minister in America will need to receive a substantial raise just to cover the additional taxes which means there will be less money available to churches for actual ministry programs and outreaches. The effects of this suit could be rather staggering particularly for small struggling churches.
Many churches own the houses that the pastors and ministers live in. This is particularly true among the Catholics. How this would be accounted for under a new ruling is unknown.
Fact is one of the reasons that pastors and ministers receive the allowances in the first place is that the minister’s homes are not just strictly private residences but usually function as smaller church meeting venues for counseling, Bible and prayer meetings, and for leadership gatherings. Also many pastors have their offices in their homes and how all of these different uses would be accounted for when it comes to taxes could be rather problematic and in final analysis would end up putting pastors and ministers at a distinct disadvantage rather than the claimed ‘benefit’ that they now receive.
Finally I really do question whether the writers of the Constitution envisioned that the First Amendment would ultimately be used to combat and diminish religion in America and put ministers at a disadvantage. Particularly since some of them came from states that had ‘official’ churches with publically paid ministry at the time. *Top