Clergy "Parsonage" Tax Exemption Ruled Unconstitutional

by cofty 6 Replies latest social current

  • cofty

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker have won a significant ruling with far-reaching ramifications declaring unconstitutional the 1954 “parish exemption” uniquely benefiting “ministers of the gospel.” .....

    How long until somebody says "persecution"?

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run


    I am delighted. Do you know what level of court made this decision? I fear a trial court may be overruled by an appellate court, esp. if the appellate court is located in a Bible belt. We discussed this decades ago when I studied income tax. It is sad that it took so long to be successfully challenged. Freedom from Religion Foundation is the main challenger of faith-based social organizations receiving federal funding. The parsonage example was glaring.

    Americans don't realize it but our tax dollars are supporting religious organizations. The Supreme Court ruled that faith-based organizations may receive government funding as long as individuals have a private choice. George Bush established an office in the White House to encourage such organizations to receive funding. Many hoped that President Obama would shut the office down. Pres. Obama expanded it. Let me give one example that I found outrageous. Students at Notre Dame are teaching in Roman Catholic schools and receiving federal. The Court said that college students were not as vulnerable as younger students. Individual choice was found.

    I hope this holding stands.

  • Watkins

    Hey, I LIKE it! My in-laws' church has a really nice house for the parsonage. Rent/mortgage, insurance, home maintenance and repair costs all come from the parishners' plate contributions. (do they all agree with it - did they all vote or something? I doubt it - probably okay'd by the church council)

    Thing that gets me is that the 'pastor' and his wife are fairly young, but the old ladies of the church actually clean their rent-free house for them! On a weekly basis if I'm not mistaken. The cleaning ladies probably feel good about doing it, but sincerely, does that sound right? Who's 'serving' whom?

    Yes, the false cries of 'persecution' will arise. They should read Fox's Book of Martyrs for some perspective. They should also revisit: "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's".


  • mind blown
    mind blown

    This is HUGE!!! Thank You Cofty for posting!!!!!


  • cofty

    The decision was by District Judge Barbara B. Crabb for the Western District of Wisconsin.

    " Crabb stayed her ruling until the conclusion of any appeals, as is typical in significant cases ".

    There is a link in my OP for the news release and at the bottom of the article is a link for the judges 43 page ruling in full.

    I can't make the link work as it has spaces in it.

    It would be interesting to hear BOTR, and any other legal experts, on the ruling if you get time to read it.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Basically, this has to do with income flows and taxation. Individuals pay tax on their income. If someone provides free housing or cleaning for you, you must count that benefit as taxable income. Everyone pays taxes on income. Clergy have had special exemptions. One involves the use of a rectory or parsonage. Under normal rules, it would count as part of your overall taxable income. Clergy were exempted from this general rule. It was never fair. Those of us who were not of their religion were subsidizing them. My tax prof was furious. It should be a violation of the Establishment Clause. There was Supreme Court case law that upheld the exemption. There are many such items in the tax code. I was angered to hear about the exemption. It is so against separation of church and state. Atheists could not claim any exemptions.

    Evidently, the time was ripe to raise the issue again. To be honest, though, the present Court finds religion and state should accomodate each other frequently. The cases have been 5-4, though. Republican nominationees vs. Democratic nominees. One must have an actual case in the United States to challenge legislation or the constitutionality of a an act. This appears to be the opening move. Freedom from Religion sued. A trial court judge has ruled that the Tax Code provision is unconst'l. Next, the case will be heard by the intermediate level appeals court, the Court of Appeals for that geographic area. There is a good chance that the case will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. I have no idea how one can justify the exemption. It clearly benefits a religion.

    I will try to read the trial court's opinion. This is great news. Freedom from Religion has a good track record of winning these cases. I honestly don't know much else about Freedom from Religion. If you research Establishment Clause law, they bring cases routinely and from all over the country. I don't know why the ACLU is not more prominent in this field. Perhaps b/c Freedom from Foundation does such a good job that it frees the ACLU's resources for other civil liberties causes. The embarassing part is that the exemption has existed for so long.

  • DesirousOfChange

    If someone provides free housing or cleaning for you, you must count that benefit as taxable income.

    OMG! What would a penthouse apartment overlooking Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty be valued at?


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