Last month, in a challenge brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin federal district court ruled that the “parsonage allowance,” 26 U.S.C. § 107(2), violates the federal Establishment Clause. Enacted in 1954, the “parsonage allowance” allows clergy to exclude from gross income a rental allowance received as part of his or her compensation. In Gaylor v. Mnuchin, the district court found that 1) the allowance lacked a secular purpose or effect and 2) a reasonable observer would perceive it to be a governmental endorsement of religion. The case is likely to be appealed to the Seventh Circuit in the next month and could be heard by the United States Supreme Court in a future term.
This Teleforum will examine the nuts and bolts of the parsonage allowance, including its history as well as the practical impact that its loss would impose on religious congregations nationwide. The primary arguments for and against its constitutionality will be explored.
Prof. Thomas C. Berg, James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law
John Van Drunen, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)
Michael Martin, Vice President and Legal Counsel, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)
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