Religion remains established for lack of standing

If the government wrote a check to every church’s minister, that would be Establishment of Religion, right?  Then what about tax breaks for every minister?  Code section 107 gives tax breaks for housing to any “minister of the gospel” (expanded in Regs to cover rabbis, imams, etc.).  If that’s not the kind of caught-red-handed establishment of religion the Founders forbade in the 1st Amendment, what is?

But the Seventh Circuit found yesterday that plaintiffs challenging the tax break for “ministers of the gospel” in Code section 107 lacked standing to sue. No particular personal injury to the plaintiff means no standing to sue. So the Court dodged the question, and dismissed the lawsuit.

A state marijuana monopoly might face similar protection. Other than a state employee ordered to sell the stuff, it’s hard to find an obvious plaintiff with standing. But the matter is not clear, and states may allow standing where the federal government does not.

Here is 107, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/107:

26 U.S. Code § 107 – Rental value of parsonages

In the case of a minister of the gospel, gross income does not include—

(1) the rental value of a home furnished to him as part of his compensation; or

(2) the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home and to the extent such allowance does not exceed the fair rental value of the home, including furnishings and appurtenances such as a garage, plus the cost of utilities.

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

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