June 4, 2010

15 RNS 2: Clergy Tax Case Moves Forward

The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors

Clergy Tax Case Moves Forward

BY FERNANDO ALFONSO III                                                                                ©2010 Religion News Service

capA 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. The 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."