In November 2013, a federal trial judge in Wisconsin ruled that the longstanding law that provides an income tax exemption for clergy housing expenses is unconstitutional. The Justice Department is appealing the ruling to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The NAE joined an amici brief urging reversal. Also on the brief are the Christian Legal Society, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Queens Federation of Churches.
The January 2013 Evangelical Leaders Survey found that 93 percent of evangelical leaders find the policy fair. The exemption is an accommodation, and the government does not establish religion by accommodating it.
The joint brief argues that the government may, and sometimes must, treat ministers differently from other occupations and activities in order to serve the value of the church-state separation. Pastors and churches should be prepared with budget projections and contingency plans in the event that the appeal is unsuccessful.