Friday, November 22, 2013

Big News!

Today brought a big victory - albeit a bit delayed - for secularists fighting for Separation of Church and State.

The District Court of the Western District of Wisconsin, presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Barbara B. Crabb, ruled that the oft-called “parish exemption,” which allows religious ministers to avoid paying taxes on the value of their housing granted to them by their religious employers, “violates the establishment clause” of the U.S. Constitution and must be discontinued.

The problem with this exemption is that it allows a double dip, as the law allows a minister to both pay no taxes on a housing allowance, but to later also take the standard tax deduction for the interest and property taxes paid using that same money.

In affect, getting paid for taking out a mortgage!

Now, the ruling was essentially put on hold until the appeals process is ended or the time frame allowing an appeal ends, which ever is later.

But one can guarantee that the right wing will begin a full throated attack on this ruling as another "attack" on religion.  Privilege, it seems, cannot be abridged, unless through "attack".

It will be interesting to see if this survives an appeal to the Supreme Court.

I know many of us would prefer to see ALL religious tax exemptions be lifted, but, well, sometimes baby steps are all you get!

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