DALLAS (BP) — A lawsuit in federal court challenging the minister’s
housing allowance has ended, according to a report from GuideStone Financial
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The challenge to the minister’s housing allowance tax
exclusion was dismissed June 17, in the Federal
District Court for the Eastern District of
California in Sacramento.
The case, Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Geithner, was
originally filed in 2009.
The case was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs in
light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2011 on the issue of standing, a
legal concept that only parties who have been directly harmed by a statute can
challenge its constitutionality. Because the plaintiffs are not directly
impacted by Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code — the section that governs
the housing allowance exclusion — they do not have the standing to challenge
“This is the most recent challenge to the minister’s housing
allowance exclusion,” said O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial
Resources. “We remain committed to making known to Congress the importance of
the minister’s housing allowance and will continue to work with other church
pension boards in Washington to
keep this important tax benefit for ministers.”
The minister’s housing allowance is among the most important
tax benefits available to ministers. 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.
Rules and limits are discussed in a special Q&A at www.GuideStone.org/housingallowance.
“GuideStone, along with other denominational pension boards,
filed friend-of-the-court briefs in another case in 2002 challenging the
constitutionality of the housing allowance exclusion, and we continue to work
to ensure the housing allowance is maintained for all pastors,” Hawkins said.
“We are especially aware of how important this benefit is to those pastors at
the crossroads, in rural areas where their housing and lower income would make
a new tax burden particularly onerous.”
While there are no further challenges to the housing
allowance exclusion in process, GuideStone remains vigilant, Hawkins said.
“Moving forward, we can expect more challenges, either
through other court cases or through the legislative process, to the housing
allowance exclusion,” he said. “One of the sacred trusts we have at GuideStone
is to stand as an advocate for the pastors we serve. It is our privilege to
help serve those who serve the Lord in these important matters.”