Major FFRF Legal Victory Eliminates Tax-Free Housing for Pastors

For years now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has been in a legal battle to end the “parish exemption” that allows ministers to deduct the cost of rent for their church-owned houses from their taxable income. FFRF believes that this shows preferential treatment for religious leaders.

FFRF’s own board has even paid its co-presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor $15,000 each as part of their housing allowance, but because they don’t qualify as “ministers of the gospel,” the law doesn’t apply to them. That’s one of the ways they’ve tried to prove the law is illegal.

A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Justice ridiculously argued that the exemption was legal and that FFRF’s leaders were eligible for the tax breaks… because atheism, they said, was a religion:

Non-theistic beliefs, including atheism, may qualify as “religious” beliefs in various contexts because they pertain to religion and fulfill a similar role in a person’s life:

Because [FFRF] can show no facts to suggest that the IRS will apply terms like “minister” and “religious organization” as if they turn on adherence to some theistic belief or other content, this Court should not presume that the IRS would act inconsistently with the governing law regarding whether atheism a religion for purposes of an atheist’s claim…

No thanks, says Gaylor.

“We are not ministers,” she said. “We are having to tell the government the obvious — we are not a church.”

Yesterday, in a very surprising (but legally sound) decision, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb ruled in favor of the FFRF, writing that the “parish exemption” was indeed unconstitutional:

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Oklahoma House Speaker Adds a Chapel to the Blueprints of the Soon-To-Be-Renovated State Capitol Building

Things a State Capitol building needs: A place where legislators can cast votes. Some conference rooms. Offices for the elected officials. Maybe a gift shop.

Things a State Capitol building doesn’t need: A home for Jesus.

Yet, in blueprints for the soon-to-be-renovated Capitol building in Oklahoma, House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) appears to have added plans for a chapel:

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After Pushback, County Council Member Removes $7,000 Budget Item Earmarked for Child Evangelism Group

You may recall how Jim McCune, the Pierce County Council member (in Washington state), made a push last week to give Child Evangelism Fellowship $7,000 in funding. CEF is a Christian group whose mission involves proselytizing to and converting elementary school students via their Good News Clubs.

What made McCune’s budget amendment even more appalling was how he defended his decision:

McCune said Friday night Child Evangelism Fellowship is non-denominational, and the money would not go towards religious items.

“Yes, (CEF) may come from a certain book (the Bible), but it’s not a so-called religious foundation. Completely separate,” McCune explained.


Yesterday, Pierce County held the final meeting to approve the budget — and the $271,000,000 bill passed unanimously. However, McCune’s future-lawsuit-bait wasn’t part of that final budget:

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Why is This Georgia Town’s Chief of Police Using the Department’s Facebook Page to Preach Christianity?

It’s not strange at all that Harlem, Georgia Police Chief Gary Jones would use a Facebook page to keep citizens informed of local crime sprees, offer them some safety advice, and remind them of classes offered by the Harlem Dept. of Public Safety.

But it’s not hard to see how Jones crossed the line with this recent Facebook post (on the Department’s page):

There are many kids that have been raised in Godly homes that have went astray at no fault of the parent(s); however, too many have went astray due to parents failing to discipline and get involved in their children’s lives. The Police cannot raise your kids. Parents must become the disciplinarian and impose and enforce rules. The law does not prohibit a parent or guardian from spanking their children. The law says that parents may administer reasonable corporal punishment. No, it is not reasonable to strike a child with a bat or other object, but you can use a belt and strike their rear-ends. This may offend some parents that do not believe in spanking, and to you I say statistics are against you. Parents be nosy, check behind your kids and never assume that they will always be truthful. Doing these very things just may save the life of your child. Fathers you are the head of the home and God will hold you accountable. Get your children in church and teach them about the one and only true Saviour…Jesus Christ.

Apparently, Jones thinks that his government agency’s Facebook page is the appropriate place to offer his opinions on spanking and Jesus. As if we need another advocate for the kind of loving abuse featured in Michael and Debi Pearl‘s To Train Up a Child

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Christian Group, Ignorant of History, Complains That Obama Omitted ‘Under God’ from Gettysburg Address Video

You knew this was coming: The Christian group Liberty Counsel is crying foul after a video of President Obama reciting the Gettysburg Address surfaced without him including the words “Under God” in the speech:

Not only did President Obama snub the ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address today, he ignored and omitted the words “under God” in his rendition of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, filmed by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

Liberty Counsel, of course, isn’t a group that cares about the facts. They just enjoy playing victim even when there’s no controversy in sight.

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