CHICAGO — The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has against dealt a blow to a legal challenge by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) as it ruled for the second time on Friday that tax-free housing allowances for pastors do not violate the U.S. Constitution.
“We conclude § 107(2) has a secular legislative purpose, its principal effect is neither to endorse nor to inhibit religion, and it does not cause excessive government entanglement,” wrote Judge Michael Brennan, nominated to the bench by President Trump, on behalf of the unanimous three-judge panel.
“Here, ‘[t]here is no genuine nexus between tax exemption and establishment of religion,’” he wrote. “Section 107(2), then, does not violate the Establishment Clause …”
As previously reported, FFRF had first filed suit in August 2012 to challenge the 1954 “parish exemption” granted by Congress.
“In the case of a minister of the gospel, gross income does not include (1) the rental value of a home furnished to him as part of his compensation; or (2) the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home and to the extent such allowance does not exceed the fair rental value of the home, including furnishings and appurtenances such as a garage, plus the cost of utilities,” the pertinent statute states.
U.S. Representative Peter Mack, who introduced the legislation, was said to have introduced the law in order to reward ministers for working to fight against wickedness
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