Madison, Wis. – A federal judge has struck down a law that gives clergy tax-free housing allowances in a decision that could have far-reaching financial ramifications for pastors across the U.S.
In her decision Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Wisconsin wrote that the exemption “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”
The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit against U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel.
Under the law, passed by Congress in 1954, ministers don’t pay income taxes on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance.
“It’s a really big deal,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation. “A church currently could pay a minister $50,000 but designate $20,000 of it a housing allowance so that only $30,000 would be taxed as salary.”
Given the dollar figures at stake, Gaylor expects clergy members to pressure the White House to appeal the decision to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Protesters block NATO supply route
Peshawar, Pakistan – Thousands of people protesting U.S. drone strikes blocked a road in northwest Pakistan on Saturday used to truck NATO troop supplies and equipment in and out of Afghanistan, the latest sign of rising tension caused by the attacks.
The protest, led by Pakistani politician and cricket star Imran Khan, had more symbolic value than practical impact as there is normally little NATO supply traffic on the road on Saturdays. The blocked route in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province leads to one of two border crossings used to send supplies overland from Pakistan to neighboring Afghanistan.
Khan, whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party runs the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, called on federal officials to take a firmer stance to force the U.S. to end drone attacks and block NATO supplies across the country.
“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan told the protesters.