The Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal in late January with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to challenge a federal district judge's ruling that the clergy housing allowance in her district is an unconstitutional preference for religion.
Federal district court judge Barbara Crabb made her ruling in late November for the Western District of Wisconsin. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit organization, brought the lawsuit.
With the November ruling, Judge Crabb stayed her decision, pending the outcome of an appeals process or the expiration of a 60-day period for an appeal to be filed. The Justice Department's filing was made ahead of the expiration date; the appeal could take up to a year.
The housing allowance is the most important tax benefit for clergy, so the stakes are significant. Judge Crabb's decision, had it not been appealed, would have only affected ...