Recently, a federal judge in Wisconsin declared unconstitutional the minister’s housing allowance that has been in the tax code for well over 100 years. This decision is on hold while it is appealed, and Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies are helping defend the constitutionality of the housing allowance.
The district court judge who struck down the housing allowance was appointed by a President, who was elected by the people and confirmed by United States Senators, who were likewise elected. The ruling brings into sharp focus the truth that elections have consequences.
America’s pastors know all too well the impact on themselves and their families if the housing allowance were struck down for good. One pastor, in an earlier case challenging the minister’s housing allowance, told his personal story of pastoring a small church in central California. The church was in a financially depressed area of town with a high unemployment rate that was hit hard by the national recession. The church of 40 was struggling to get by and needed a pastor. A housing allowance was the only form of compensation that this church could offer to secure a pastor and this pastor graciously agreed to serve this small, needy population, receiving only a housing allowance as compensation.
If you’re a pastor of a small church, you can probably identify with this story. Listen to what pastors said when they were asked what impact the removal of the housing allowance would have on them, their families, and their ministries:
- “The removal of the clergy housing allowance would hamper a pastor’s ability to serve the poor, the weak and the forgotten; we serve where others do not serve or where others refuse to serve. We alleviate the suffering of the people in our community and we relieve the government of much social work it would have to provide if we pastors were not here in poor communities. Don’t cripple the healers.”
- Pastor Bill Devlin, Infinity Bible Church, The South Bronx, New York City
- “If the minister’s housing allowance exemption is struck down it would be catastrophic, and I would no longer be able to provide for my family and continue in the ministry as I do now.”
- Father Josiah Trenham, St. Andrew Orthodox Church, Riverside, California.
- “It is shortsighted of the court to know that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 350,000 churches in America of which 50% are less than 80 members who are working with the poor, the needy, the hungry and the broken; yet the United States judiciary has effectively said, ‘Let the pastors do it with even less resource at their disposal.’”
- Pastor Kevin Baird, Legacy Church, Charleston, South Carolina
- “In losing my ministerial housing allowance, due to the increased tax burden it’s quite likely that I’d be forced to re-enter the secular workforce (where I worked the 1st 8 yrs. of this church’s history) where my focus and attention on tending to the spiritual needs of this fellowship would be greatly diminished.”
- Pastor Andy Fine, Calvary Chapel, Farmington, New Mexico
- “The tax advantages that our country affords the ministry are similar to the military, both protect our country (spiritually and physically). Taking away those advantages would make it harder financially for those called to protect our great nation.”
- Pastor Gus Booth, Warroad Community Church, Warroad, Minnesota
- “A loss of the minister’s housing allowance would add a great burden to small churches which can hardly afford to support their pastors with a fair salary.”
- Dr. Darryl DelHousaye, President of Phoenix Seminary
The potential loss of the minister’s housing allowance is just one example of the need for America’s pastors to give Biblical guidance on the vital issue of the election of leaders who set our national policy – because that policy has consequences for America’s churches.
Pastor, commit to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday on October 5, 2014. Your flock needs to hear from you on the vital decisions they’ll make at the polls.