Housing Allowance

July 10, 2019

The housing allowance for our called workers will remain protected for the foreseeable future. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) stated on June 14ththat they will not seek review from the US Supreme Court and is ending its fight for now.  For years FFRF has attempted to have the housing allowance benefit removed from our workers arguing that it grants “impermissible preference for religion.” This 65-year-old benefit is probably the most valuable benefit to “ministers of the Gospel” whose estimated worth is about $700 million annually. In 2013, the Seventh Circuit District Court judge (which includes the state of Illinois), agreed with FFRF’s argument. However, the judge’s decision was overturned on appeal stating that the FFRF lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit forward. In 2017, the FFRF gained standing and once again brought their lawsuit forward. Once again the same judge sided with them. The decision was once again repealed. On March 15, 2019, the appeal, which this time was determined on the actual merits, ruled in favor of housing allowance because it “Falls into play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter.” The FFRF decided not to appeal this ruling by attempting to bring this to the US Supreme Court because “after counting heads we concluded that any decision from the current court would put the kibosh on challenging the housing allowance for several generations.” Instead the FFRF said that it wished to “preserve the ability to bring a future legal challenge that could eventually go before a potentially more sympathetic Supreme Court.” It will probably take several years before the make up of the Court changes enough for FFRF to once again decide to approach the US Supreme Court. It will then be up to the Court to determine if they will even decide to hear the case.

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