Loading
Judge rules clergy housing allowances unconstitutional
By Adelaide Mena
St. Cecilia's Rectory in Clarkdale, AZ. Credit: Larry and Teddy Page via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
St. Cecilia's Rectory in Clarkdale, AZ. Credit: Larry and Teddy Page via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

.- A law granting clergy members an exemption from income tax on housing allowances is unconstitutional, according to a federal judge's recent decision.

The exemption “violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,”  U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin’s Western District wrote Nov. 22 in her decision in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Lew and Werfel.

The law, part of the Administrative Procedure Act of 1954, 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 continued.

The Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation brought the case against U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and acting IRS commissioner Daniel Werfel, who were in turn defended by the Justice Department.

The law allows housing allowances given to clergy to purchase homes to be exempt from income taxes, and also permits clergy to be exempted from taxable income up to their home’s fair market rental value.

Crabb's decision will not affect clergy's housing allowances until all appeals have exhausted.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, called the lawsuit a “really big deal.”

“Once the clergy get wind of it, I expect they will be very upset,” she told the Wisconsin State Journal, adding that she expected the decision to be appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

“When you’re dealing with some of these mega-church pastors with huge mansions, they can be paid an enormous amount in housing allowances,” Gaylor added.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which oversees a pastors’ network from over 25,000 churches around the country, called the ruling an act of “supreme arrogance” against a tradition that helps, rather than harms, society.

“The Supreme Court has made perfectly clear that neither taxpayers or organizations have standing to bring federal lawsuits with this sort of challenge because the law they are challenging has not caused them any direct harm,” Perkins explained in a statement.

The tax-free housing allowance for clergy exists “because of the tremendous benefit that churches in turn give to society,” he continued.  “Clergy help carry the burden of many social ills that would otherwise become the burden of taxpayers and the federal government.”

He added that Crabb has ruled in favor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation against the National Day of Prayer. Her ruling that the day was unconstitutional was overturned by the Seventh Circuit court because the foundation “had not suffered an injury due to the law and so lacked standing to sue in the first place.”

Ken Klukowski, director of the Center for Religious Liberty for the Family Research Council, added in a statement that since “the U.S Supreme Court has made crystal clear that these sorts of laws do not injure anyone, we expect the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago to promptly reverse this decision.”

"This is a decision that flies in the face of controlling precedent," he concluded.

Tags: Freedom from Religion Foundation, Administrative Procedure Act


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
A Look at India from Rome
3D Church mapping
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Aug
30

Liturgical Calendar

August 30, 2014

Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 25:14-30

Gospel
Date
08/30/14
08/29/14
08/28/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: 1 Cor 1: 26-31
Gospel:: Mt 25: 14-30

Saint of the Day

St. Jeanne Jugan »

Saint
Date
08/30/14
08/28/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 25:14-30

Homily
Date
08/30/14
08/29/14
08/28/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: