On October 6, 2017, Judge Barbara Crabb of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the clergy housing allowance is unconstitutional because it exclusively benefits religious groups with no other secular purpose— a violation of the First Amendment.
RPB has been monitoring this case about the clergy housing allowance since it began in 2012 through our regular involvement in the Church Alliance, a coalition of pension plan organizations for different religious traditions. Our legal counsel is also actively involved in the Church Alliance’s Church Lawyers Working Group (“CLWG”).
The next step will be an appeal of the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (which has jurisdiction over the Western District of Wisconsin) and the CLWG will likely file an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief to advocate for the housing allowance.
What happens to the housing allowance for now? For now, nothing has changed. Instead of issuing a remedy, Judge Crabb asked both parties in the case to prepare legal briefs on what the remedy should be. In addition, it will probably take some time for the case to work its way through the court system. RPB will continue to monitor the case and apprise you of key developments.
For additional information please refer to the email from Rabbi Steven A. Fox, Chief Executive Officer of the CCAR, to its membership which contains two useful links to more information about the case.