MADISON, WIS. - A federal judge has struck down a law that gives members of the clergy tax-free housing allowances.
In her decision Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the exemption "provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise."
Under the law, passed by Congress in 1954, ministers don't pay income taxes on compensation that is designated as part of a housing allowance. The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit, saying the law unconstitutionally establishes religion.
The Rev. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, disagreed and said that without the housing allowance, small congregations without parsonages might not be able to afford ministers.
The judge stayed her ruling until appeals in the case are exhausted.