What do you know? The Johnson Amendment will remain in the tax code, and the parsonage exemption is out.
First, the Johnson Amendment:
A Democratic senator taking part in talks on the GOP tax package says a provision allowing churches to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status won’t be in the final bill.
Good. This should never have even made it into the tax bill. If churches want to do electioneering, then they shouldn’t be able to do it with tax-free dollars — basically, a public subsidy.
Second, a federal court has ruled against the parsonage exemption.
A federal judge ordered the IRS to stop letting clergy deduct housing allowances, after finding that the federal law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by endorsing religion.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled for atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF, in October, finding that a provision of the tax code, Section 107(2) of Title 26, unconstitutionally allows Christian ministers to deduct housing allowances from their taxable income, because it benefits religious leaders and no one else.
Good, again. If the members of a church wish to put their Holy Man in a mansion, more power to them. But ordinary decency — the Christian prohibition against theft, I should have thought — should have precluded the expectation that the rest of us would subsidize the project. I’m sure this decision will be appealed, but the housing allowance is so egregious it’s difficult to see how it could be sustained.