Obama DOJ Appeals Parsonage Ruling

Lest you begin to think that the Obama administration is friendly to secularism, let me note that the DOJ is filing an appeal of the district court ruling that the parsonage allowance for religious non-profits but not secular ones is unconstitutional.

The Justice Department will appeal a federal court ruling last fall that allowing clergy to avoid paying taxes on a part of their income designated as a housing allowance violates the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

The department filed a notice of appeal with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago Jan. 24, just days before the Jan. 27 deadline. It’s not yet clear what arguments government attorneys will make in defending the law.

Last November, Senior United States District Judge Barbara Crabb said a section of the tax code granting a benefit for “ministers of the gospel” not available to everyone else favors religion over non-religion, thus creating an establishment of religion prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

This is certainly not surprising to anyone who has been paying attention. The suit was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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  • Reginald Selkirk

    It would be great if that decision could be promoted to a nation-wide binding precedent.

    Barring that, it will be yet another opportunity to watch Scalia twist logic.

  • Wylann

    What are the right whine circles saying about this? That the DOJ is only doing it to allow exceptions for the other muslims?

  • eric

    Forgive me for asking a question that might have been answered in an earlier thread, but is this tax benefit really only given to ‘ministers of the gospel’ or does the IRS interpret it broadly to mean any equivalent of a minister getting a housing allowance from a charitable organization?

    I’d agree its probably illegal either way, but I find it hard to believe that in this day and age, something as religiously specific as “minister of the gospel” could make it into the tax codes.

  • http://www.durrantpublishing.co.uk Paul Durrant

    It really does say “minister of the gospel”.