Atheists have fought to remove Christianity from as many walks of life as possible and one group has won court rulings that directly impact the financial health of American pastors.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has leveled a seven-year assault on the constitutionality of pastors being given a tax-deductible housing allowance. The anti-Christian organization won a court battle in 2017 that sided with the atheists that the tax deduction violated the First Amendment.
Recently, more than 5,000 pastors from all across the United States have rallied and signed a petition as the case heads to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, there, Chicago-area clergy seek to overturn the anti-religious ruling.
What is the Freedom from Religion Foundation?
The anti-Christian organization was founded in 1976 by the mother-daughter tandem of Anne Nicol Gaylor and Annie Laurie Gaylor. It went national in 1978 and has focused almost exclusively on curbing the ability of Christians to connect with everyday people of faith.
The founders have published a litany of books that assault Christians, the church and attempted to undermine a basic belief in God. These include “Women Without Superstition: No Gods – No Masters,” and “God: The Most Unpleasant Character in all Fiction,” among others.
The anti-religion group has leveled numerous lawsuits aimed at disrupting Christian values and voices in government as well as local communities. In 2004, FFRF brought a lawsuit against Pres. George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In 2006, FFRF sued the Department of Veteran Affairs for including spirituality into health care. The group has also targeted faith-based criminal rehabilitation programs.
Atheists Go After Christian Money
The secular organization has a long history of financial targeting. The 2000 lawsuit aimed at destroying faith-based criminal rehabilitation went after the taxpayer dollars supporting the initiative. Although the group lost in court, they successfully displaced a chaplaincy program in Indiana by targeting a full-time pastor’s salary.
Finding court success alleging financial misappropriations, the FFRF has been emboldened and the pastor tax credit would have a devastating impact on spiritual leaders’ financial health across the country.
More than 80 percent of all full-time senior pastors rely on this housing allowance to supplement their modest incomes, according to recent Church Law & Tax information. The average church allots approximately 9 percent of its total financial resources to housing. The long-standing tax credit saves American pastors upwards of $800 million each year. If the atheists were to gain a final ruling against the practice, that would negatively impact American churches by nearly $1 trillion annually.
Represented by the legal team at Becket: Religious Liberty For All, the Christian defendants point out that this historic approach to tax law and faith-based support has been in place for centuries. The foundation of the separation of church and state is based on the government being barred from meddling in church affairs. Religious institutions are generally exempt from taxation to prevent anti-religious forces from bringing financial pressure. This same reasoning has long been applied to news outlets in conjunction with First Amendment free speech rights. Media organizations are widely exempt from many government taxes.
General counsel Luke Goodrich, from Becket, appears confident that the pastor tax credit will be upheld during the appeals process. All 50 states reportedly have similar tax credits for religious support-givers. Goodrich also noted that it is consistent with other tax policies that provide an employer housing allowance. For example, governor’s mansions and overseas government-affiliated workers are commonly covered by the tax credit.
“When the taxpayer is secular, this inquiry is difficult,” the Becket brief states. “When he is a minister, it is theologically charged.”
“The district court’s decision would . . . have devastating practical effects on ministers and communities across the country,” the legal brief filed by Becket reads. “For over a century, churches and ministers have relied on these rules to start ministries, purchase property, and help the communities they serve.”
Nation’s Pastors Stand Together
Along with the more than 5,000 pastors who have signed on to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) campaign designed to protect the housing exemption, many other Christian groups are expected to file supporting amicus briefs.
Pastors across the country routinely use their homes to provide spiritual support in times of need and a place to congregate. Many have already joined the Chicago-area suit against FFRF. To date, they reportedly include Chris Butler and Edward Peecher of Chicago Embassy Church, Patrick Malone of Holy Cross Anglican Church, the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Should the Christians lose at the appeals court level, churches in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin would immediately suffer a heavier financial burden. However, because the Internal Revenue Service implements tax code in the same fashion across the nation, the case would likely be subject to review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the unscrupulous motives of FFRF to bring down Christianity will not be on the court’s docket.
~ Christian Patriot Daily