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AG Derek Schmidt: Traditional tax exemption for religious institutions is constitutional

Release Date: Apr 27, 2018

TOPEKA – (April 27, 2018) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt yesterday asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a district court’s judgment that had invalidated the federal income tax exemption for the value of housing a church provides to its minister.

Schmidt and the attorneys general of 16 other states yesterday filed an amicus brief with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that asks the court to uphold the federal parsonage allowance, which is used by ministers and their religious institution employers within the states. The Wisconsin-led brief urges the appellate court to reject a lower court’s ruling that the parsonage allowance violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Many states, including Kansas, have crafted their own income tax codes to incorporate the parsonage allowance. The Kansas statute is K.S.A. 79-32,119(a). Additionally, states long have offered a number of other tax exemptions to religious organizations, and those other exemptions could be at placed at risk by the district court’s judgment.

“The federal parsonage allowance fits within the deeply rooted tradition of offering tax benefits to parsonages, a tradition practiced by the Colonies and the early States, accepted by Congress and the Supreme Court, and still practiced today,” the attorneys general wrote. “This is the essence of the deeply rooted parsonage system: a church giving its minister a home to live in while he or she serves that church and its congregation.”

The case is Gaylor v. Mnuchin. A copy of the brief is available at http://bit.ly/2I99h4J.

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