The IRS Test of Qualified Minister v the Supreme Court

by sufferthechild

It seems to me that the old IRS test for who qualifies for Clergy exemption with regard to Housing Allowance is now much stricter, and out of touch, with the recent Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

If our church essentially fulfills the rules for the IRS to the extent that we feel meets the test for the Supreme Court, can we issue a Housing Allowance?

The example is this:

In the test case of the teacher fired, would she have therefore qualified for a housing allowance given that her training, formation, work activity and commisioning was determined by the court to place her under the clergy exeption, however it doesn't seem that she would meet all the tests for the IRS to the exact traditional understanding of the test.

If there is a discrep[ancy, and the Supreme Court gives more authority to ther religious institution in question to determine its own understanding of leadership, which should we use to evaluate our own staff with regards to the Housing Allowance?

Comments for The IRS Test of Qualified Minister v the Supreme Court

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Apr 27, 2013
Qualified Minister vs. the Supreme Court
by: Anonymous in NC

So what exactly are you saying and what exactly are you asking???

May 07, 2013
Determining Ministers without Government Interference
by: Vickey

Good comment! It raises some very interesting questions.

But first of all let me clarify if you are you referring to the Supreme Court case involving Cheryl Perich?

If so, I agree that it did rightfully give religious institutions a constitutional right to determine their ministers without government interference and spells out the importance of churches including in their bylaws important factors to determine who is considered a minister in their organizations and also the importance of including in the bylaws how disputes should be handled.

I’m sure that teacher had not been administering the sacraments of the church (weddings, funerals, baptisms, and communion, etc...), but she had been considered a minister by that religious organization and had been receiving a housing allowance for many years.

Here is an excerpt from an article titled: Supreme Court unanimously shoots down Obama admin in religious freedom case

“Justice Clarence Thomas offered a concurring opinion broadening the ministerial exception and stating the Church should be free to select its ministers entirely free of government regulation. The state, he wrote, should “defer to a religious organization’s good-faith understanding of who qualifies as a minister.”

So I think if your church uses their own definition of who qualifies as a minister for a housing should be clearly spelled out in your bylaws.

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