Michigan and the Parsonage Allowance

via Michigan and the Parsonage Allowance

Gaylor V. Mnuchin – 7th Circuit Oral Arguments

Gaylor v. Mnuchin – Oral Arguments

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals sits at Chicago, occupying the 27th Floor of the Everett Dirksen Federal Building in the Federal Plaza downtown. On October 24th, I attended the oral arguments presented before the Court regarding Case # 18-1277, Gaylor v. Mnuchin, about which I wrote a bit last week. It is a reprise of a case brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation which was dismissed in 2013 for lack of “standing” by the plaintiffs. After making some adjustments in their case, FFRF is back again.
Judge Michael Brennan presiding, joined by Senior Judge Daniel Manion, and Senior Judge William J. Bauer (nominated by Presidents Trump, Reagan, and Ford, respectively, and confirmed by the Senate).

I’m not an attorney, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night – so take these “laymen’s” impressions with grains of salt.

FFRF has called this a David vs. Goliath campaign, imagining Goliath as the various religious bodies whose ministers would be effected by the elimination of tax-exempt housing allowances. But the real giant in the room, and the bigger challenge for them, may be that they are suing the US government itself – specifically the Secretary of the Treasury.
Representing the government today was an array of attorneys, led by Jesse Panuccio, Associate Attorney General of the US (the third highest ranking official at the Department of Justice, who oversees virtually all non-criminal matters). He was joined by 4 other attorneys at a table laden with documents and surrounded by document cases and still more attorneys seated near the table.

The chambers were “comfortably full” – each of the rows of spectator benches might have had room for one or two more persons if everyone move to the center.
Also arguing an amicus brief was Luke Goodrich, VP and Senior Counsel of Becket Law – a firm which argues religious liberty cases on behalf of believers in many religious communities, “Christian” and otherwise. They are representing a coalition of Chicago churches (ranging from Holy Cross Anglican Church to the Chicago Embassy Church, to the Chicago Diocese, Russian Orthodox Church), arguing specifically that the elimination of the IRC 107(2) would discriminate against poorer religious groups which cannot afford to provide a parsonage as allowed in Section 107(1).

Seated at the opposite table were two attorneys who argued that the ministerial housing allowance permitted under Internal Revenue Code Section 107(2) is unconstitutional. Speaking first was Adam Chodorow, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University brief filed by a coalition of tax professors. I thought he made the strongest and clearest case possible that IRC 107(2) is should be declared unconstitutional simply by singling out a special class (ministers) to receive a benefit not available to other citizens. Agree with the arguments or not, he made his case clearly and fielded effectively the questions asked him by the Justices.

Richard Bolton, who I believe is a general-practice attorney in Madison, WI where FFRF is located, spoke last, representing Annie Gaylor and Dan Barker, co-presidents of FFRF. My impression is that FFRF was not particularly well served by his presentation, which to my ears sounded rambling, disjointed, repetitive, and unclear. Agree or not, the other attorneys presented their cases clearly and concisely, supported by relevant court decisions and logic. Bolton, who seemed flustered by questions from the justices, also sounded exasperated at times that the simple assertion of the rightness of his case was not accepted as obvious. One man’s opinion. Presumably, such cases are decided on the merits of conflicting claims presented in the briefs, not so much on the eloquence and personality of the presenters.

Many of the issues raised in oral arguments were discussed in my post last week, reporting on a Loyola Law School seminar regarding this case. Some of them included whether the housing allowance passes the 3-prong “Lemon” test (including whether the law has “secular intent” – Judge Manion posed several questions about the secular effect, not merely the secular intent, of the law); whether “Lemon” provisions should take precedence over historical considerations in the legislative history, adjudicating such issues on a practical basis involves government entanglement in the usage of either parsonage or house exempted under the allowance, and much more. “We’ll see.”

A decision is expected sometime in the next two months. The oral arguments became available this afternoon online at the 7th Circuit’s page: media.ca7.uscourts.gov/sound/external/ds.18-12771280.18-1277_10_24_2018.mp3

“Me, Too.”

Well said, Randy — thanks!

Randy Daw

Lust has had its way for too long.  In entertainment, at school, and even in church we hear story after story of women who have been assaulted by powerful or even “trusted” men.

Among the teenaged and adult women you know, probably one in every three has been violently assaulted.  More than half have been sexually coerced or harassed.

Note:  Violence includes manipulation or threats which result in sexual compliance. Any touch is violence when consent is coerced, or when consent cannot be legally given.

abused woman

Many courageous women have told their stories in recent weeks.  Others by the (literally) millions have responded on social media and other fora by answering “Me too.”

Other men have often seen and done nothing.  Worse, they have conspired to keep an assault secret, rationalizing that the woman must have done something to bring it about.  If a man knows something and does nothing, he…

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Pay your taxes and do not fear the authorities

Ferrell's Travel Blog

While reading Romans 13 I came to Paul’s admonition to the saints at Rome, “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good.” My mind immediately turned to the mosaic which was discovered during the excavation of the Byzantine public area at Caesarea Maritima.

The context in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans reads this way.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:3-4 ESV)

The sign at the site describes the building…

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Assyrian Nimrud (Calah) destroyed

Tragic.

Ferrell's Travel Blog

The phrase “Assyrian Triangle” came to be used of three famous Assyrian cities of northern Mesopotamia: Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Nineveh. I think an understanding of this helps when we study Jonah 3:3.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. (Jonah 3:1-3 ESV)

Parrot says that the word Nineveh might have been understood by those living far away from Assyria by what we now call “‘the Assyrian triangle’ which stretches from Khorsabad in the north to Nimrud in the south, and with an almost unbroken string of settlements, covers a distance of some twenty six miles” (Nineveh and the Old…

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