ERLC and Guidestone united in protecting pastors’ housing allowance

By Staff
Nov 23, 2013


WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 23, 2013—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and GuideStone Financial Resources stand together in opposition to a ruling issued by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin, who ruled unconstitutional a provision in US tax code that allows for ministers to deduct their housing allowance. The plaintiffs in this case are the Madison-based Freedom from Religion Foundation and the defendants are U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel. This ruling affects clergy in the Western District of Wisconsin.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, reacted to the ruling:

“The clergy housing allowance isn’t a government establishment of religion, but just the reverse. The allowance is neutral to all religions. Without it, clergy in small congregations of all sorts would be penalized and harmed.”

At this point, the housing allowances of pastors remain unaffected, because the ruling has been stayed by the judge until the appeals are exhausted, pastors and church organizations will not be affected.

O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Resources, commented on the ruling:

“Although this particular case does not have immediate impact, we know that pastors and others in ministry are facing challenges in our very own nation as never before. This decision, while not unanticipated, is sadly symptomatic of our culture today. We count it a privilege to be an advocate for those who have given their lives to ministry–and we will not forsake our mission to undergird those who so faithfully serve our churches and ministries.”

Both the ERLC and Guidestone have been carefully anticipating this challenge. Judge Crabb issued a similarly antagonistic ruling against the National Day of Prayer and The Freedom from Religion Foundation has filed similar lawsuits, which have been struck down. Nevertheless, both organizations will be vigilant in protecting this exemption in the tax code. Moore continued:

“The judge in this case has a history of issuing similar decisions. We will continue to fight to protect the housing allowance, because we believe clergy are essential for flourishing, vibrant communities.”

FACT Sheet:

  • Passed into law by Congress in 1954, section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code allows “ministers of the gospel” to exclude some or all of their ministerial income — as designated by their church or church-related employer — as a housing allowance from income for federal income tax purposes.
  • Because Judge Crabb stayed the ruling until the appeals process is exhausted, clergy housing allowances are not affected.
  • Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling in Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc vs Jack Lew and Daniel Werfel affects only the Western District of Wisconsin.
  • Download (PDF) to the judge’s ruling.
  • Guidestone’s FAQs regarding the minister’s housing allowance.

To request an interview with Russell D. Moore
contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409
or by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Further Learning

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