FRC: Obama Admin's 'Religious Harassment' Still Apparent in New Clergy Ruling

Posted: Oct 10, 2017 9:50 AM

The residue of the Obama administration’s “religious harassment” is still lingering, according to the pro-family, pro-life group Family Research Council. President Tony Perkins made the observation after U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Friday that the clergy housing tax allowance was unconstitutional.

Religious leaders have fought to protect the law, first passed in 1954, freeing them from paying for income taxes on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance, explains the Wisconsin State Journal. The law was reported to have saved clergy around $800 million in taxes annually. However, Judge Crabb has ruled that it was an unconstitutional benefit for religious leaders, at the expense of secular employees.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, who filed the lawsuit last year, was pleased with the victory.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, heralded the victory and said she was confident it would survive challenges on appeal.

“It’s a huge ruling,” Gaylor said. “The last one created shock waves and this one should really be creating them. ... I think everybody knows we’re right, they just don’t like changing the law.”

Yet, Perkins had some questions for the judge, who he notes lives in infamy for striking down the National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional as well. In his statement, released Monday, Perkins explains why the housing tax allowance is a concrete way to lift at least one burden from clergy who contribute so much to their communities.

"The anti-faith environment created by the Obama administration goes a long way to explaining why such a lawsuit could be deemed to be anything more than religious harassment. Militant secularists have a longstanding friend in Judge Crabb who is infamous for striking down the National Day of Prayer as being unconstitutional.

"Going back to Patrick Henry in 1785, society has tried to relieve the clergy's housing burden because of the tremendous social benefits churches offer the culture and because so many clergy, despite their exceptional educations, receive only modest salaries. Congress has used tax-breaks and incentives to encourage that which is beneficial to society as a whole.

"I'd like to ask Judge Crabb: Where are the atheist-run soup kitchens, clothes closets, relief agencies, orphanages, adoption agencies, counselors, and hospitals. No, it is the pastor-led churches that primarily provide these benefits to communities and society in general. Americans donate over $100 billion to religious charities, including churches, every year because they believe it makes a positive difference. Churches have been central to the relief efforts in the aftermath of hurricane damage in Southeast Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

"I believe this case will mirror the outcome in the National Day of Prayer case: in embarrassment for Judge Crabb," concluded Perkins.

Both sides in this case will make their arguments before the judge by the end of the month.