Pastors may want to pay attention to Becket appeal

Monday, October 22, 2018
Chris Woodward (

gavel with Bible 2You may not live near Chicago but your church could be impacted by a case being heard this week in the Windy City.

The case is Gaylor v. Mnuchin, and arguments are set for Wednesday, Oct. 24 at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Brought by atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the case argues that pastors should not be able to receive tax-free housing allowances as part of their job, as it "provides preferential and discriminatory tax benefits to ministers of the gospel."

The atheists have won at the federal district court level but now Becket, a religious liberty law firm representing a Chicago pastor, appealed that ruling to the Seventh Circuit.

"This case represents a tremendous practical challenge to churches and to other houses of faith," says Becket attorney Joe Davis. "This is a challenge to a very old tax provision that's used by most pastors, most imams, most rabbis, in order to live in the areas where they serve. And if the plaintiffs' lawsuit succeeds, it'll impose about a billion dollars of new taxes on houses of worship in this country."

Speaking of pastors, imams and rabbis, friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed from various faith groups including Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, Davis tells OneNewsNow.

Some members of Congress filed a brief in favor of religious leaders having housing allowances, something that business leaders, teachers and military service members also enjoy.

"Hundreds of thousands of non-religious employees get to use provisions very similar to this in order to live in the place that they work, and so this provision that's being challenged here just makes that same thing available to pastors," Davis continues. "This is about an atheist trying to raise taxes on ministers."

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