Should clergy get a housing tax credit? Longtime provision could go away after Freedom From Religion group sues

Oct 25, 2018

By Angie Leventis Lourgos

The Rev. Chris Butler often uses his home to host Bible studies or pastoral counseling for members of Chicago Embassy Church, his small Pentecostal congregation on the South Side.

Like many faith leaders, he receives a tax-free housing allowance for clergy, which he considers critical to his ministry as well as the church’s survival.

Now Butler and other local pastors are fighting in federal court in Chicago to keep that tax break, after a judge in Wisconsin ruled last year that the decades-old ministerial housing allowance violates the separation of church and state. Oral arguments in the case — which is followed closely by clergy across the country — began in Chicago on Wednesday.

“Living close to the congregation I serve means I can devote my time to serving at-risk youth, the poor, those affected by drugs and gang violence, and most importantly those who are lost and seeking a real connection with God,” said Butler, whose home is in the Kenwood neighborhood. “Taking this vital provision away would be detrimental to Chicago’s neediest communities that receive important support from ministries run by Chicago Embassy Church and other ministries.”

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