Court of Appeals upholds ministers housing allowance


by Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications

On November 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down a decision by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb that the minister’s’ tax-exempt housing allowance is unconstitutional. Crabb had ruled in 2013 that granting such a benefit to clergy that is not available to everyone creates an establishment of religion, which the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits.

In overturning the lower court’s ruling, the three-judge panel stated that the original plaintiffs—the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)—did not have legal standing to file the initial suit since an organization’s leaders cannot be parties in a suit that causes them no material harm. However, the Appeals Court stated that they did not rule on the “issue of the constitutionality of the parsonage exemption,” so the matter may return.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, applauded the Appeals Court ruling. “In our increasingly secular culture where government overreach is rampant, I am grateful to the Lord for this victory,” he said.

The EPC, in partnership with more than 30 other denominations through The Church Alliance, filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court of Appealsin April. Click here for the Church Alliance report of the Federal Court ruling, including a copy of the court’s opinion.

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