Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's good to be the reverend

We have heard a lot of Warren and Haggard. They have been put down. But look what else they get. Haggard was caught with meth and a male prostitute and eventual lost his position. But his church covered as many of his sins as they could, including paying off a young man who Haggard had a relationship with.

For Warren, while he keeps women in there place and bars homosexuals from his church, he has had trouble with taxes. Now, for some reason, the clergy of America keep to deduct their housing expenses from taxes. But it is limited. This offended Warren, why should he have a limited tax deduction. Fair market value, pfffft. No he wanted to be given his whole salary as a housing expense, plus mortgage deductions beside, not internal to that. So he fought, bravely mind you. And he won. When the IRS went to appeal, things looked bad. The ninth circuit would even look at the validity of any tax break for clergy housing.

As noted in The Nation:


Seeking arguments on the constitutionality of the "parsonage exemption," as it was called, the Ninth Circuit panel appointed Erwin Chemerinsky as a friend of the court. At the time, Chemerinsky was teaching law at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles; today he is dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine (and thus my colleague). Chemerinsky observed that the housing tax exemption applied only to "ministers of the gospel"--not to leaders of secular nonprofits engaged in humanitarian work. He noted that the rule was established in 1954, at the height of the cold war, after a Congressman argued that "in these times when we are being threatened by a godless and antireligious world movement we should correct this discrimination against certain ministers of the gospel who are carrying on such a courageous fight against this foe." Chemerinsky concluded that the exemption represented an intentional government subsidy of religion, and thus it violated the First Amendment's establishment clause.


But Congress raced in and unanimity enacted the The Clergy Housing Allowance Clarification Act of 2002. This put down better rules to help the clergy and ended the case and the potential risk to clergy. Thanks Congress. 2002 this was a priority?


Religious denominations from Reform Jews to Southern Baptists expressed their support for the exemption. But their goal was preserving their own exemptions in the future, not defending Warren's past tax returns. The bill could have established the "reasonable" standard the IRS sought for the exemption without letting Warren off the hook. Or Congress could have waited to see what the courts would decide about the constitutionality of the exemption before acting on it.


So a famous pastor gets in a bind and the whole of Congress acts. For a guy who was looking to sneak as much money passed the IRS. If a rich guy like him did that on Wall Street we would boo. We should boo Warren to, as well for all the other crap he flings.

America's religious leaders.

EDIT: I somehow had then renamed Haggard. It is fixed now.

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