Today, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a 2013 ruling by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb that identified the housing allowance benefit for clergy(IRS Code §107(2)) unconstitutional.
The original lawsuit, filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation argued that the parsonage allowance exclusion violates the separation of church and state and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
In the November 22, 2013, ruling Judge Crabb stated that the parsonage allowance exemption “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.”
Today, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed Judge Crabb’s 2013 ruling due to the fact that the Freedom From Religion Foundation lacked standing.
In their ruling, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated:
We conclude that the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge 107(2). We therefore do not reach the issue of the constitutionality of the parsonage exemption. The judgement of the district courts is vacated and the case remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint for want of jurisdiction.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation felt they had standing due to the fact that they theoretically were harmed because they couldn’t claim the housing allowance benefit. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that being theoretically harmed did not give them standing for the lawsuit. In order to have standing, they would have to file their tax returns and be denied the housing allowance benefit by the IRS. This approach will most likely be the next step for the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legal battle against the housing allowance exclusion.
Source: Clergy Financial Resources