GOP Tax Bill Passes Senate Vote. “Senate Republicans passed a $1.5 trillion tax bill early Saturday morning [December 2] that bestows extensive benefits on corporate America and the wealthy while delivering mixed blessings to everybody else. After a frantic round of negotiations, Republicans came together in near unanimity behind the landmark legislation. The final vote was 51 to 49, with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) the lone GOP holdout. No Democrats voted for the bill. The measure still has to be reconciled with an earlier House-passed version before being sent to President Trump. The centerpiece of the GOP plan is a move to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, starting in 2019. The Senate tax bill would also temporarily cut tax rates for families and individuals until 2025. But the bill would kill a number of tax benefits. It would subject fewer people to the estate tax, a levy charged on huge inheritances, but stop short of eliminating that tax altogether. . . . GOP leaders still aim to get a final bill on Trump’s desk before Christmas” (“Senate GOP tax bill passes in major victory for Trump, Republicans,” The Washington Post).
Church Law & Tax will continue to monitor updates on tax legislation efforts in Congress. You can also order the 2018 Church & Clergy Tax Guide for shipment in January.
Christian Bakery Case Goes to Supreme Court. “The case of a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding gets its big day in court [December 5]. While Jack Phillips’s legal team has emphasized his right to artistic expression as a cake decorator, many following his US Supreme Court case focus on another legal matter at stake: religious freedom. Advocates on both sides anticipate Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission will set a nationwide precedent for whether the government can require businesses, organizations, and individuals to act against their own sincerely held religious beliefs—particularly following the legalization of same-sex marriage and equal rights granted to LGBT Americans. As CT previously reported, Phillips’s refusal to bake the same-sex wedding cake in 2012 violated Colorado’s antidiscrimination law, and a state appeals court denied his free speech and free exercise claims. This spring, the high court opted to hear Phillips’s case, one of several cases involving Christian wedding vendors (such as florists, photographers, and caterers) currently making their way through state judicial systems. Oral arguments in the case begin today at the Supreme Court. Most commentators expect Masterpiece Cakeshop will be a tight decision come spring, even with religious liberty defender Neil Gorsuch on the bench” (“The Great Supreme Court Cake-Off: Christian Bakers vs. Gay Weddings,” Christianity Today).
Texas Church Builds Temporary Location After Hurricane Harvey. “After being completely flooded by Hurricane Harvey, St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church is putting the finishing touches on a temporary church to finally resume services after being away for nearly three months. A crew was working power the building located on the church's front lawn, which is adding five air conditioning and heating units, speaker system and lights so that it would be ready by this weekend. Father Norbert Maduzia said the new steel structure with a tarp roof took about a week to assemble. ‘It's not perfect, but it's home,’ he said. ‘That's the important thing—to keep people at home.’ While the noise of traffic on Cypresswood Drive intrudes in the new building, the temporary church has 1,001 chairs for parishioners to arrive on Saturday evening. Church officials have been working behind the scenes to figure out legal, insurance, and risk management after Harvey. Maduzia said the temporary church is a visible sign to parishioners of the work that's being done to repair the church. ‘We've got the try to make the best of it,’ he said” (“Temporary church hopes to bring parishioners back to worship after Harvey,” The Houston Chronicle).
Disaster ministry expert Jamie Aten offers insights on helping survivors of disasters like Hurricane Harvey.
Emily Lund is assistant editor for Church Law & Tax.
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