The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is filing a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that a law that allows pastors to receive tax exemptions is unconstitutional.
According to Charisma News, the FFRF is challenging the so-called “clergy housing allowance” which allows pastors to take tax exemptions for housing expenses their churches cover.
The FFRF’s leaders, Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker--who are married--are suing the federal government because they allege this part of the tax code is unfair to leaders of non-religious nonprofits.
“FFRF is asking the court to rule the provision unconstitutional because it provides preferential and discriminatory tax benefits to ministers of the gospel. The section "directly benefits ministers and churches, most significantly by lowering a minister's tax burden, while discriminating against the individual plaintiffs, who as the leaders of a nonreligious organization opposed to governmental endorsements of religion are denied the same benefit,” a statement on the group’s website reads.
The statement goes on to say that pastors are allowed to use the housing allowance for other things such as home improvements, appliances, home decor, and personal items, in addition to paying for rent or a mortgage, and that this is unfair and only serves to increase the wealth of already wealthy clergy members.
A group of ministers has united to oppose the FFRF in this case.
The ministers have issued a statement, saying, “The parsonage allowance, 26 U.S.C. § 107(2), facilitates their ministry to their congregations and larger communities. It allows the ministers to live near the communities they serve. It allows them to spend the modest tithes from their congregations on the vital ministries and programs that they sponsor. Intervenors will suffer significant financial harm and consequent harm to their ability to carry out their religious missions and engage in core First Amendment activities should plaintiffs succeed in this lawsuit."
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: December 15, 2016