Friday, November 14, 2014

7th Circuit: Challenge To Parsonage Allowance Dismissed For Lack of Standing

In Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Lew, (7th Cir., Nov. 13, 2014), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed for lack of standing an Establishment Clause challenge to the constitutionality of the federal tax code's parsonage allowance for clergy.  The co-presidents of FFRF, and organization of atheists and agnostics, received part of their salaries as a housing allowance, but they never sought to exclude the income on their federal income tax returns and did not file a claim for a tax refund. Therefore the IRS and the Tax Court never had a chance to interpret the scope of the exemption. According to the court:
A person suffers no judicially cognizable injury merely because others receive a tax benefit that is conditioned on allegedly unconstitutional criteria, even if that person is otherwise “similarly situated” to those who do receive the benefit. Only a person that has been denied such a benefit can be deemed to have suffered a cognizable injury.
Courthouse News Service reports on the decision. [Thanks to Steveh H. Sholk and To Rutledge for the lead.]