Major Court Victory for the Ministers' Housing Allowance

Thousands of pastors and churches across America just scored a major victory in the latest court challenge to the ministers’ housing exclusion.

In its highly anticipated opinion on March 15, 2019 the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a lower federal district court, which had ruled in late 2017 against the longstanding housing exclusion for ministers. Instead, the appeals court likened the ministers’ housing exclusion to other similar benefits in the tax code for work-related housing, finding the provision permissible under the First Amendment and well-established legal precedent.

ECFA has actively defended the housing exclusion, including supporting an amicus brief that was cited by the appeals court judges in their favorable decision in this case. President Dan Busby commented on the court victory, “This decision is a win not just for the ministers’ housing exclusion but for the ‘more than 2,600 federal and state tax laws that provide religious exemptions’ cited by the Seventh Circuit, some of which date back to early 1800s.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the group which brought this challenge to the housing exclusion, did not indicate their intention to appeal the decision in an early press release reacting to the case.

Click here to read a more detailed breakdown of the court's opinion.

ECFA will continue to report any significant developments on the housing exclusion in the News section at ECFA.church.

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