Good News for Churches Worried About Losing Their Pastor's Best Benefit to Atheist Lawsuits

What a Kentucky court ruling implies for a high-profile Wisconsin challenge to the clergy housing allowance.
Good News for Churches Worried About Losing Their Pastor's Best Benefit to Atheist Lawsuits
Image: minnemom/Flickr

A federal judge in Kentucky has thrown out an atheist challenge to tax benefits for churches and clergy—a decision that stands in opposition to the high-profile overturning of the IRS's clergy housing allowance by a Wisconsin federal judge in November.

Three groups—American Atheists, Atheists of Northern Indiana, and Atheist Archives of Kentucky—had argued that the current tax code provisions unfairly favor churches and pastors, reports the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). According to ECFA, their suit objected to:

  • the church exemption from the requirement to file applications for recognition of tax-exempt status (Form 1023),
  • the church exemption from filing annual information returns (Form 990),
  • the clergy housing exclusion,
  • the exemption from income tax withholding and FICA taxes for ministers, and
  • the specific audit procedures for churches.

The plaintiffs relied heavily on a recent ruling by Wisconsin judge Barbara ...

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