Judge allows clergy housing tax case to proceed
    May 28 2010 by Fernando Alfonso III, Religion News Service

    A federal judge has rejected a motion filed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to dismiss a California lawsuit that challenges tax breaks ministers can receive on housing.

    Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code allows housing-related tax breaks for clergy. The tax write-offs have been permitted for ministers of all faiths since the 1950s.

    In a May 21 ruling, U.S. District Judge William Shubb stated that “plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts which, if accepted as true, ‘leave open the possibility’ that ... Section 107 goes too far in aiding and subsidizing religion by providing ministers and churches with tangible financial benefits not allowed secular employers and employees.”

    The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which earlier this year won a court case seeking to overturn the law that sanctions the National Day of Prayer. That case is currently on appeal.

    “We have a very, very strong case,” said co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This is very unconstitutional. We do not regard this as a symbolic attempt, or a shot in the dark. We have very strong facts behind us. ... Ministers of gospel should not be given a privilege that no other tax payer is given.”
    5/28/2010 2:18:00 AM by Fernando Alfonso III, Religion News Service | with 5 comments




Comments
Dr. James Willingham
The privileges the churches had were due to the fear of those seeking to get a toe hold in regulating them. Prominent among the supporters of the American Revolution were the ministers of practically all of the denominations in the colonies, including the Congregationalists, Reformed, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans (I do not really know much about their percentages for or against the Revolution), and the Baptists (I can almost count the Baptist ministers on one hand who were opposed to the Revolution, they really were that few as far as I can say from my researches). The Baptist ministers of Virginia met with the Colonial Legislators and made an agreement that in exchange for their freedom to practice their faith, they would encourage the young men in their communities to enlist in the Patriots Cause (read Civil War against a duly constituted government).

So the churches and ministers made a contribution to the Revolution. One source indicates that there was a whole regiment of ministers in the Revolution (this was interdenominational I think), and the group that gets the credit for securing Religious Liberty, according to the noted Methodist historian of the Univ. of Chicago in the 50s, William Warren Sweet, in his The Story of Religion in America, is the Baptists. The churches also help society by coming to the aid of indivduals and families that suffer from moral degradation, alcohol, drugs, marital discord, and various other personal and social difficulties. Even Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire noted the transforming power of the Gospel in the lives of the old pagans and their miserable society.

What is happening is the implementaton of an effort to shove the Christians out of the public arena. The recent success of the Moslems to keep Franklin Graham from speaking at the Pentagon, because he made some remarks that were critical of their religion (one of the marks of freedom of religion, and one germane to the whole Protestant and Reformed movement has been the legitimacy of critiquing the powers that be, including and especially the religious as witness the Reformation grew out of a criticism of the established church, the Roman Catholic. Now we have 6 Catholics on the US Supreme Court and two Jews, and what the new nominee's religion is I do not know. But not having one person in that body, representing the traditions of those who established it is enough to induce a certain degree of apprehension.
5/31/2010 12:18:08 PM

Dr. James Willingham
The truth is that in the American Revolution an agreement, for example, was made between the Baptist Ministers and the Colonial Legislators in Virginia that in exchange for their freedom to practice their faith, the Baptists would encourage the young man in their communities to enlist in the Patriots' cause (read Civil War against a duly constituted government). The few Baptist ministers who objected to that civil war that I came across in my researches, I can count on the fingers of one hand. Baptists were almost unanimous in their support of the Revolution.William Warren Sweet, the noted Methodist historian at the Univ. of Chicago in the '50s, asserted in his work, The Story of Religion in Ameridca, that to the Baptists more than any one else goes the credit for religious liberty. Ministers of other denominations included the Congregtionalists, Reformed, Presbyterian, Lutherans, and many Anglicans (do not really have a realistic idea for sure about the Anglicans. So my "many" might be questionable). There was even a regiment of preachers according to some sources. The last person to speak to the Continental Army before it disbanded was Rev. John Gano, who, according to Dr. Garland Hendricks, baptized General George Washington by immersion before some 60 witnesses. The movement afoot now is to dilodge the church (in this case all churches, synagogues, and mosques) from a position it has occupied since the Revolution, a position based upon the positive contribution that it makes to the community. For example, the reclamation of people whose lives has fallen apart, so to speak, due to things like alcohol, drugs, financial distress, personal problems, family difficulties. Consider how Methodists, Baptists, and others were instrumental in helpin a young nation transition from a wild and often dangerous frontier mentality to a more civilized norm of behavior. Having seen the power of the Gospel to tame people in their madness, I think a nation can hardly hope for much without such a force to aid in the regenerating of society through the transformation of individuals in their behavior. Even such person as Benjamin Franklin in his more deistic days recognized the change in the behavior of his fellow citizens of Philadelphia as he noted in his autobiography. He even backed Rev. George Whitefield's effort in support of the Orphanage in Savannah which still stands today. Whitefield's influence might have been the reason why Franklin did finally join the Episcopalian Church in Philadelphia in the church yard of which he is buried. The last time I had account of the Episcopalian/Anglican requirements for membership, especially in the 1700s, they required a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died on Calvary for our sins and arose again the third day. In the 1790s the Supreme Court ruled that this was a Christian nation, and the Supreme Court in the 1890s made the same rule. The first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, was a forthright Christian and served as President of the American Bible Society. What the push to secularize our government is all about is to steal a nation, subvert the purposes of the founders, remove all freedoms under the guise of political correctness, and ensalve the citizens. If things continue on the course now set, our freedoms will all be gone within 10-20 years. The Moslems recently objected to Franklin Graham's speaking at the Pentagon, and his freedom of religion was curtailed so that they might not suffer consternation at his have spoken in critical fashion about their faith, something that is germane to the Protestant and Baptist Faith, which was borne out of distress with the Roman Catholic Church. Do the Moslems really think they have religious freedom by takng action that only leads to mere toleration (a disgusting example of patronizing)? The numbers on the US Supreme Court are now 6 Catholics and two Jews. What the new nominee is I am not sure, but one has to wonder, in view of the history of religion where this will all lead. Twenty years ago, I read where one minister wanted to put all Bible believing ministers in Insane Asylums. As one whose training was in American Social and Intellectual History and knowing something of the intellectual depths of Scripture, I have to wonder who else has such limited knowledge of American History and the Christian Faith in the Intellectal realm. It forebodes dark times ahead unless we have a Third Great Awakening for which have been praying for 37 years.
5/30/2010 11:46:10 PM

Ron Caulder
I believe this privilege was repelled in the early 80's and then reinstated a short time later.
Also, it is my understanding that those serving in the military have this benefit as well. It seems to me what is more unconsitutional is the group Freedom From Religion Foundation. The First Amendment to the Constitution is entitled "Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression" and reads as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an established religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances."
This housing allowance privilege 'respects no one particular faith' but is given to all churches and religious groups registered and approved for tax-exempt status. Our consitutional fore-fathers did not desire a "freedom from" religion but a "freedom of" religious expression just as speech, assembly, and the right to present grievances against the Government when these freedoms are threatened. Let us pray for our Judges so that they will not be deceived and led by our adversary the devil who works his schemes to deceive and lead our nation from her religious liberties. Is it not odd that these matters were included in the First Amendment? It is my understanding that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is predominantly an atheist group who has no concern for religion. That's their right as well, but it is our right to protect and stand fast in the foundational truths that has set this nation above any other in human civilization. We must give God the credit and the glory. If and when He is further removed, we will follow the course of other fallen nations in history. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance (Psalm 33:12,KJV)." The price of forgetting God is catastrophic!
5/29/2010 12:52:44 AM

Perry
So something else is lost.
We are in the world but not of the world. The world's ways are not ours and we are subject to the laws of the land. Unto the state such as due the state.

Yes, the work of Christ is always under persecution but that is as we should expect. Jesus told us we would be "hated" for following Him. Even in the United States there are no safe havens. This is just one more indication that there will be even more persecution.

History shows that when the CHURCH becomes comfortable and conforms to culture that the CHURCH suffers and persecution escalates. The social Gospel should never be elevated above the Saving Gospel.
5/28/2010 12:45:44 PM

Jack Carver
Early in my ministry I was challenged on this very point. My response was that I don't know why ministers receive a non-taxable housing allowance, but I would be a fool not to take advantage of it. I still don't know why this tax preference exists, but I'll take advantage of it as long as it is available. I also don't know why ministers are considered self-employed when it comes to Social Security taxes and as a church employee when it comes to income taxes, but I pay the full 16% FICA tax every year. I do know this, however, the non-taxable housing allowance is an extremely beneficial perk over the course of thirty years.
5/28/2010 12:01:16 PM

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