Judge: Clergy Housing Allowance Unconstitutional

Clergy Housing Allowance IRS

Last month, a federal judge ruled that the Internal Revenue Service’s housing allowance for clergy is unconstitutional. The effects of this is huge, as the housing exemption effects 44,000 ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and others.

The overall impact will be an estimated 5-10% cut in take-home pay, but the effects of this ruling could run much deeper. This isn’t just about taxes, this is about the federal government dipping into a religious institution’s finances.

As Joe Carter pointed out:

“Both the parsonage and pastor housing exemption are part of a legal tradition that serve to prevent the entanglement of the state in ecclesiological concerns. By her decision, though, Judge Crabb has — albeit unintentionally — incorporated a form of denominational favoritism into the tax code. In her attempt to prevent an imaginary violation of the Establishment Clause she has inadvertently created a real infringement.”

I suggest reading the entire post by Carter, he outlines this further really well.

The Effects

Jesse Johnson also writes further, exploring the history as well some of the current abuses of this tax policy by mega church pastors (read more).

What concerns me the most with this ruling, is it demonstrates a leaning and a frame of mind towards religious institutions. It would be naive for us to think that this line could not easily creep towards other aspects, too. Where might the line be drawn in relationship to Freedom of Speech and Religious Freedom as it relates to “hate speech” when addressing the issue of homosexuality? Or rules that have been established regarding political speech from the pulpit when a pastor addresses abortion?

As Carter and Johnson have outlined so well, this ruling is more government intrusion in the name of less.

I am afraid this is another chip in the chipping away of Religious Freedom in the United States.


SOURCE: Religion News Service | IMAGE: JD Hancock via Compfight cc

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