Is this another attack against religious freedom? The “Freedom From Religion Foundation”. In his article “Clergy Housing Tax Break Declared Unconstitutional – Everything You Want to Know and More“, Peter J. Reilly reported,
“On November 22, 2013, Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that Internal Code Section 107(2) which exempts from income tax amounts, designated as housing allowances, paid to ‘ministers of the gospel’ is unconstitutional.”
Crabb ruled in favor of the “Freedom from Religion Foundation” and its atheist presidents, Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker. Sadly, some “pastors” have taken advantage of this, and have built huge tax-free homes from the selling of books and being the head of a congregation, congregations, or a whole denomination.
What would happen to churches if this tax-exemption were removed? The writer of the Forbes’ article above, Reilly, rightly noted in 2011 (“Work, Fight and Pray – Vestige of the Medieval in Our Tax Code“),
“When it comes to housing, it would seem that Section 119 is sufficient. If your employer provides you with a place to live, so that you will be near at hand, the value of that place to live is excludable from your gross income. If that place happens to be a room in a hotel for the manager, a rectory or fifteen square feet on a nuclear submarine, the principle is the same. That’s not the way it is, though. The military and the clergy are special. Since at least historically, housing tended to go with their jobs, monetary allowances paid in lieu of actual housing are exempt from tax.”
In stead of placing a cap on the ministers’ housing-allowances, a few have made war on religion claiming that these benefits are unfair. Yet, they conveniently forget that “ministers of the gospel” are also excluded from certain non-profit tax benefits like the forgiveness of student loans and work earned income credit while other religions are allowed.
Is this another attack against religious freedom? Yep. No matter what the courts decide, churches will simply purchase and provide their ministers’ homes, and thus make their housing tax-exempt. That is why so many ministers have previously lived in housing provided by their congregations, and this is why there is a tax exemption for ministers. In the end, these atheists do not appear to see that they are wasting their time. Either way, smaller and working-class churches will provide housing for their ministers, and ministers will continue legally avoiding this tax. Churches will continue to support other charities and non-profits that they will essentially pay no additional taxes. Their ministers may soon be volunteers from those non-profit organizations. “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14, cf. 9:1-18). These attacks against the Christian faith are fruitless. Even when they start throwing ministers in prison for “bigotry” and fining churches, the attention that they will give will cause faith in Christ to thrive.