WASHINGTON, D.C, Oct. 10, 2017—The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and GuideStone Financial Resources stand together in opposition to a ruling issued by a federal district court judge on Oct. 6 that declared the ministers’ housing allowance to be unconstitutional.
Russell Moore, president of the ERLC reacted to the ruling:
“This ruling is a sad development that represents a needless challenge to hard-working pastors devoted to serving their communities. More still, this ruling is wrong: the housing allowance is in no sense the government establishing religion. The allowance is neutral, applies indiscriminately to all religions and removing it would disproportionately harm clergy in small congregations across the country. We will continue to fight to protect the housing allowance, because we believe clergy are essential for flourishing, vibrant communities.”
District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin, made the same ruling in 2013. The 2013 ruling was overturned in 2014 by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, ruling that the plaintiffs from the Freedom From Religion Foundation were not harmed by the tax break.
“We have monitored this case and its predecessor cases closely and will seek as part of a long-standing coalition of ministerial benefit boards to file a friend-of-court brief on appeal at the appropriate time,” said O. S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone. “The housing allowance, far from being a government endorsement of religion, as Judge Crabb contends, actually removes government from the equation. Were it not for the housing allowance, the government would be imposing a tax on religious employers and their employees that is not imposed on non-religious employers.”
- 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.
- The ministers’ housing allowance is not yet affected, because the ruling has been stayed until a final judgment is entered.
- Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling in Gaylor v. Mnuchin affects only the Western District of Wisconsin.
- Click here to read Judge Crabb’s ruling.
- Click here for answers from GuideStone on common questions regarding the minister’s housing allowance.
The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.2 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.