Court Rejects Atheists’ Request to Make Tax-Exempt Clergy Housing Allowances Illegal

tax-exempt clergy housing

A federal court of appeals rejected a case brought by an atheist organization that would have made tax-exempt clergy housing allowances – often a large chunk of a pastor’s compensation – illegal.

“This is a great victory for fair treatment of churches,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of pastors from several major denominations.

“When a group of atheists tries to cajole the IRS into raising taxes on churches, it’s bound to raise some eyebrows,” he said. “The court was right to send them packing.”

Thursday’s (Nov. 13) ruling means pastors will not have to pay taxes on up to $500 million in compensation, according to Becket Fund figures.

But the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wisc.-based First Amendment watchdog group that has pursued the case since 2011, vowed to fight on.

“We are disappointed but we are not giving up,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF’s co-president. “We are so clearly right and the law is so clearly unconstitutional.”

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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Kimberly Winston

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