• The template for this display is not available. Please contact a Site administrator.

Federal Court Rules That Pastors' Housing Allowances Are Unconstitutional

On Friday, a United States federal court judge in Wisconsin ruled that that the longstanding housing allowance for pastors is unconstitutional. Judge Barbara Crabb stated that the housing allowance exception “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”

What you need to know and how this ruling affects pastors: It is important to note that this decision is from a United States federal trial court in Wisconsin. What this means is that—for right now—this particular district in Wisconsin is all that is affected. If the case is appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, then that appeals court will be deciding the matter for the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. For now, if you are a pastor in Wisconsin, there is a good chance that the Seventh Circuit will have ruled on this by the time taxes are due in April. Even if the decision comes out after Tax Day in April, the IRS grants extensions that extend the deadline from April to October, which is ample time for this case to be resolved. 

At the National Center for Life and Liberty, it is our prayer that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago protects pastors by hearing this case and promptly overturning it on appeal. We firmly believe in and stand behind pastors and clergy in America today. NCLL attorneys believe that the hope of America is found in the church and work in America’s courtrooms and legislatures to defend and stand behind pastors and churches. Congress enacted the housing allowance to benefit clergy members because of the public good they bring to America’s communities. The housing allowance has been in existence since 1954 and Judge Crabb’s decision is another attempt to rid religion from American law and history.

Interestingly, Judge Crabb has a history of trying to cut religion out of America’s laws. In 2010, she ruled that the National Day of Prayer violated the Constitution because it was a government “call for religious action.” In early 2011, the Seventh Circuit reversed Judge Crabb’s decision and upheld Congress’s enactment of the National Day of Prayer.

Washington, D.C. based attorney Ken Klukowski—who assisted the NCLL in its arguments in the prayer case that was before the Supreme Court earlier this month—commented on Judge Crabb’s recent anti-religious decision. Mr. Klukowski said, “Since the U.S Supreme Court has made crystal clear that these sorts of laws do not injure anyone, we expect the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago to promptly reverse this decision. This is a decision that flies in the face of controlling precedent.”

Will you join us in praying for this decision to be overturned? Many pastors often sacrifice higher paying careers and vocations to serve in the ministry. We believe that this tax benefit is a necessary and deserving benefit to those who have given their lives to serve others. Please pray that this important benefit remains protected for pastors.