Still No Ruling in the Clergy Housing Allowance Case
Still No Ruling in the Clergy Housing Allowance Case
After nearly six months, a decision still may be weeks—even months—away. Here’s why.
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Furthermore, the Seventh Circuit likely is watching other religious-related cases involving the Supreme Court to see what kind of posture the current members of the Court take—and how that might translate to the facts and arguments tied to the housing allowance case, Wagenmaker and Sterett said.

Developments in two such cases recently materialized.

One is a certiorari petition involving New Jersey’s denial of historic preservation funds for religious buildings. The Court last week opted not to review the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision to affirm funding denials for religious groups, including churches. But newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch, still issued a statement calling the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision into question, stating it was “in serious tension with this court’s religious equality precedents.”

The other is a case regarding the constitutionality of a 40-foot memorial cross located since 1925 on public land in Maryland. The Supreme Court granted certiorari late last year for the “Bladensburg Cross” case, then heard oral arguments last month. A final outcome is expected by late spring or early summer.

The statement issued by the three justices in the New Jersey case may “bode well for the housing allowance litigation” if it eventually goes before the Supreme Court, Wagenmaker said. Similarly, any decision delivered for the Bladensburg Cross case “could help clarify what is and is not an impermissible establishment of religion,” Sterett said.

Posted: March 12, 2019

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