A federal judge has rejected
a motion filed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to dismiss a California
lawsuit that challenges tax breaks ministers can receive on housing.
Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code allows housing-related tax breaks for
clergy. The tax write-offs have been permitted for ministers of all faiths
since the 1950s.
In a May 21 ruling, U.S. District Judge William Shubb stated that “plaintiffs
have alleged sufficient facts which, if accepted as true, ‘leave open the
possibility’ that … Section 107 goes too far in aiding and subsidizing
religion by providing ministers and churches with
tangible financial benefits not allowed secular employers and employees.”
The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation,
which earlier this year won a court case seeking to overturn the law that
sanctions the National Day of Prayer. That case is currently on appeal.
“We have a very, very strong case,” said co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This
is very unconstitutional. We do not regard this as a symbolic attempt, or a
shot in the dark. We have very strong facts behind us. … Ministers of gospel
should not be given a privilege that no other tax payer is given.”