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5,000 Pastors Rally to Defend Housing Tax Break Ruled Unconstitutional

Appeal: Exemptions do more than just save pastors $800 million a year.
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5,000 Pastors Rally to Defend Housing Tax Break Ruled Unconstitutional
Image: Courtesy of Becket
Bishop Edward Peecher, founding pastor of Chicago Embassy Church, is among the defendants challenging the FFRF lawsuit.

When a pastor responds to late-night prayer request or invites congregants to his home for Bible study, is he just doing his job or going beyond the call of duty?

That’s not a question for the federal government to decide, according to the Chicago-area pastors and churches appealing a 2017 ruling that declared tax breaks for clergy housing costs to be unconstitutional.

The lawsuit over the longstanding benefit, launched by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) seven years ago, has entered another round of appeals. The Christian defendants, represented by Becket, filed their written appeal in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals late last week.

Last October, the lower court judge sided (for the second time) with the atheist group’s claim that the tax-exemption for housing allowances violates the First Amendment. The pastors’ appeal makes the opposite case: that the special provisions for ministers actually keep the government from unnecessarily meddling in religious ...

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