CASSIDY: Government Should Honor Tax-Exempt Housing For Religious Institutions

One of the best parts of traveling all across Louisiana is meeting so many passionate and caring people. Louisianans care about this state, the direction of the country and how they can make the world a better place in their community.

I’ve recently learned that church pastors and Louisianans in faith-based communities worry that the futures of their organizations could be threatened by the IRS. For decades, faith-based institutions have relied on the tax-exempt housing allowance to help ensure that they are able to extend their resources as far as possible to minister to their communities. But a recent court case deemed it unconstitutional for churches to provide ministers with tax-exempt housing allowances.

Church leaders so often focus resources on the church community that they do not have much savings for their families’ financial stability. This allowance, for example, is often relied on for a large portion of their retirement savings.

Ministers from eight Louisiana churches, including Christian Fellowship in Marrero; Moss Bluff Bible Church in Lake Charles and Vietnamese Hope Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, have joined with 624 ministers nationwide to file a brief backing the appeal of the ruling, according to the Times-Picayune.

I recently announced I would be introducing legislation to protect faith-based institutions from these taxes. The Faith and Fairness Act of 2014 allows religious institutions to continue receiving favorable tax status so they can provide housing for leaders of their communities. It upholds the position that the federal government has held for generations on whether such expenditures should be taxed.

The legislation ensures these institutions are able to receive fair tax status.

The housing allowance has been protected by federal law for generations, and its continuation is important for continuing our uniquely American culture of faith-driven charity and service, as well as religious liberty. Religious institutions should focus their time and energy on these noble pursuits — sharing their faith and serving their neighbors — not paying the federal government.

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