FFRF Fights to End Clergy Housing Tax-Break

Alliance Defending Freedom counters the Freedom From Religion Foundation with a petition campaign to save the Ministerial Housing Allowance.

Churches and pastors in the Chicago area have appealed a ruling made in 2017 which declared clergy housing tax breaks to be unconstitutional. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) had already filed a suit against the IRS in 2011, and now it has entered a fresh round of appeals. Chicago Embassy Church Pastor Chris Butler is represented by Becket Law, a specialty legal team known for defending cases linked to religious freedom. Becket filed the latest petition to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals last week.

The FFRF won the last round in October 2017. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb agreed with the claim made by the atheist group that the First Amendment gets violated when tax exemptions are made for church staff housing. The appeal made by the pastors argues the opposite: the special provisions for the minister restricts the government from meddling without any merit in religious matters. Over 5,000 pastors from all over the United States have already signed a campaign mounted by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) supporting the exemption. The Becket legal team anticipates multiple Christian groups like the ADF to file all supporting documentation, known in legal terms as amicus briefs, this week. This is the penultimate step prior to the case going to court during the closing months of 2018.

The ADF is going all out to collect the maximum number of signatures as possible. The organization has created a dedicated petition pushing the like-minded to sign. It exhorts those interested to take a stand and protect churches. It reminded church ministers that many of them depend on housing allowance. The ADF has informed ministers that there exists an excellent opportunity to remind the court of constitutionality and importance of maintaining the tradition. For this, there is an urgent need to fill a friend-of-the-court brief to this case.

The ADF urged through its website to pastors to sign in their names to protect their tax-exempt status from the continuous assault of “anti-religion activists.” They reminded everyone the more signatures the brief has, the more weight this legal instrument will have. The ADF website warns that the removal of this tax exemption means that pastors would be forced to take up second jobs. It may also be necessary for the spouse to work.

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