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Wisconsin judge says clergy tax exemption is unconstitutional

Posted at 5 p.m. on October 10, 2017

The Brillion News

MADISON – Federal Judge Barbara Crabb has ruled that a tax exemption exclusively for clergy is unconstitutional. The ruling was issued on Friday, October 6.

The federal code – 26 U.S. Code 107(2) – excludes housing given to religious employees as a part of their position from being taxed.

It is a federal income tax exemption for which no one else qualifies, and Judge Crabb said it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

That amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Crabb said giving a tax break to members of the clergy who get free housing as a part of their work amounts to a subsidy of religion, She said: “Thus, any reasonable observer would conclude that the purpose and effect [of the statute] is to provide financial assistance to one group of religious employees without any consideration to the secular employees who are similarly situated ….”

Crabb did not rule on any remedy. She expects her ruling to be appealed.

The suit was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and three individuals associated with the organization.

Defendants were the Secretary of the Treasury and the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.


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