A Federal Court has ruled pastors/preists must pay taxes on money given them to offset their housing expenses.
Giving a pastor tax free income to obtain housing largely has replaced the older practice of providing a parsonage. The parsonage model is not affected by this ruling as I understand it.
It is the tax free income that has been ruled unconstitutional. The Freedom From Religion Foundation brought the challenge.
FFRF’s argument is that when pastors don’t pay taxes on this income, it means the rest of us have to pay more. Singling out one class of people for benefits is a violation of our Constitution.
Each of us knows a small church that looks to be having trouble surviving. What we probably did not know is it might already have closed were it not for Government subsidies.
The church building itself should be paying for local government fire and police protection, but usually is not. It seems inevitable these property taxes will be the next item headed to court.
Using rough calculations, the tax subsidies for a small church with one pastor would be $10-$15,000 per year. For a larger church it would be $50-$100,000 per year.
It is often said churches perform services the government would need to perform were they not doing it. It would be much better, however, if they were simply paid when they do this, and, in turn paid their taxes.
Perhaps there is a church somewhere that looks at the Commandment, “Thou Shalt not Steal,” and wonders.