House, Senate Restore Adoption Tax Credit in Tax Reform Plan. “Apopular tax credit for adoptive families that was controversially cut by House Republicans in their initial tax reform plan has finally been restored. Meanwhile, the adoption benefit will be preserved in the tax proposal released by Senate Republicans [on November 9], report The Washington Post and The New York Times. Senators Ted Cruz and John Hoeven confirmed to reporters that the credit would remain. This afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 24–16 to add the credit back in. ‘This [new] amendment will preserve the adoption tax credit,’ said committee chairman Kevin Brady” (“Adoption Tax Credit Saved by Both House and Senate,” Christianity Today).
Order the 2018 Church & Clergy Tax Guide to learn about the tax laws that affect your church and staff.
FEMA Reconsiders Policies that Deny Aid to Churches. “When disaster strikes, houses of worship are often on the front lines, feeding and sheltering victims. Yet churches, synagogues and mosques are routinely denied aid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency when it comes time to repair or rebuild their damaged sanctuaries. Pressure is mounting to change that after this year's series of devastating hurricanes damaged scores of churches in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. FEMA is rethinking its policies in the face of a federal lawsuit . . . by three Texas churches hit by Hurricane Harvey. President Donald Trump has signaled his support, via Twitter, for the religious institutions. At the same time, several members of Congress have revived legislation—first proposed after 2012's Hurricane Sandy—that would force FEMA to pay for repairs at places of worship. The debate centers on two key questions: Does providing such aid violate the First Amendment separation of church and state? Or is it an infringement on the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion to deny churches the same aid available to numerous other nonprofit organizations, such as libraries, zoos and homeless shelters?” (“FEMA rethinking ban on disaster aid to church buildings,” Orlando Sentinel).
2016 Hate Crime Statistics Released by FBI. “[On November 13], the FBI released its Hate Crime Statistics 2016. During the year, 6,121 hate crime incidents (including 6,063 single-bias incidents) were reported to law enforcement authorities. This compares to 5,850 total incidents in 2015 (see prior posting). The 2016 data shows that 21% of the single-bias incidents (1,273 incidents) were motivated by religious bias. . . . [The Anti-Defamation League] has created an interactive map illustrating the data” (“FBI releases 2016 Hate Crime Data,” Religion Clause).
Anti-Defamation League associate director Elise Jarvis offers guidance on how religious communities can guard against hate crimes.
Bullet-Riddled Structure of Texas Church Will Be Demolished. “The pastor of the Texas church that was the site of a deadly shooting rampage this week says the bullet-riddled structure will be demolished because it is too stark of a reminder of the massacre. Pastor Frank Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among the victims, told the Southern Baptist Convention on Thursday that he plans to have the church razed. ‘There's too many that do not want to go back in there,’ Pomeroy told The Wall Street Journal. ‘The pastor expressed his desire that perhaps the best way forward is to have the church demolished and replaced with a prayer garden,’ convention spokesman Roger ‘Sing’ Oldham, was quoted by USA Today as saying. He added that parishioners haven't ‘had a chance to fully deal with the grief and then come together to make a decision’” (“Texas Church Where Massacre Took Place Will Be Demolished, Pastor Says,” NPR).
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Emily Lund is assistant editor for Church Law & Tax.
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