You knew that the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s victory in its lawsuit over the parsonage exemption was going to provoke lots of ridiculous responses and Tad Cronn of Godfather Politics steps up to the plate and does not disappoint. If ignorance was energy, this post could fuel the country for a decade.
Those provisions allow a minister — pastors, rabbis, imams, etc. — to exclude from gross income any housing allowance given to him by his employer as part of compensation.
Wrong. In fact, one of the issues raised in the case is that the 1954 law that established the parsonage exemption specified that it applied only to “ministers of the gospel,” meaning Christians. The IRS has, as the ruling in this case notes, “interpreted § 107 liberally to include members of non-Christian faiths,” but the judge then ruled that there is nothing in the statute or in case law that would require them to include non-religions in the application of the statute.
The atheists filed the suit under the theory that the IRS code somehow meant the government was establishing a religion, which is forbidden under the Constitution. They complained that as a “nonreligion,” they were excluded.
They were embarrassed when the government turned around and ruled that atheism is a religion and its “ministers” would also be eligible for the housing allowance exemption if they applied.
No, actually, they weren’t “embarrassed” by this and the government didn’t “rule” anything. They made that argument in this case, but the judge rejected that argument. The judge ruled that even if it were true that atheism is a religion (and it’s not), the law here applies only to “ministers,” that the plaintiffs in this case are not ministers by any reasonable definition, and that “no reasonable construction of § 107 would include atheists.”
Crabb’s ruling is wrong, of course. The exemption doesn’t have to do with establishing a religion, but it is merely one aspect of a larger rule that the IRS allows housing exemptions for any job where the employee is required to be housed at or near the job site as a condition of employment.
Again, wrong. This exemption applies only to “ministers of the gospel.” And there is nothing at all in the legislative history of this particular law to suggest that it had anything to do with housing exemptions in other parts of the tax code. In fact, as the ruling notes, those who passed the bill in Congress made clear that their entire purpose was to facilitate the preaching of the gospel. And the Establishment Clause covers far more than just a de jure establishment of religion, it also prohibits giving special benefits to religion that are not available to non-religions. The government cannot subsidize religion either.
Being wrong is no guarantee a bad ruling will be overturned, however. If Judge Crabb’s ruling stands, it will hit clergy in the pocketbooks. With rare exceptions, clergy are not highly paid to begin with, and such a tax change could have a dire effect on places of worship that will no longer be able to afford to pay a minister enough to live on.
Congress can easily fix that, of course. Judge Crabb’s ruling explicitly says:
Although I conclude that § 107(2) violates the establishment clause and must be enjoined, this does not mean that the government is powerless to enact tax exemptions that benefit religion…Thus, if Congress believes that there are important secular reasons for granting the exemption in § 107(2), it is free to rewrite the provision in accordance with the principles laid down in Texas Monthly and Walz so that it includes ministers as part of a larger group of beneficiaries.
That is, they don’t have to stop giving the parsonage exemption to ministers, they can just stop excluding non-religious non-profits from the parsonage exemption.
A reasonable person might ask, But doesn’t that hurt atheism as well, seeing how it too is a religion?
But the FFRF and other atheist groups long ago began calling themselves a “nonreligion,” a slick bit of doublespeak that has served them well in the courts. And it doesn’t hurt, either, that there is an unusual number of atheists working in most media outlets.
Um, no. Atheism is called a non-religion because it is, in fact, not a religion. There are no dogmas, creeds or doctrines, no ministers of any kind, no worship of any kind. It simply isn’t a religion.
The United States is inching along the path trod in the not-too-distant past by the Soviet Union, Red China and every other socialist dictatorship….
The FFRF is a hate group, little better than the Ku Klux Klan, and that only because they’ve stopped short of violence. But why resort to violence when you’ve got the government’s tacit endorsement.
Oh yawn. Same old inane bullshit. As for the government’s tacit endorsement, the government was the defendant in this case and on the other side. Logic is clearly not Cronn’s strong suit.