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10/20/2017

A note to the rostered ministers of our synod regarding the federal court ruling on housing

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Many of you have expressed your concern over the recent ruling by the federal judge in Wisconsin stating that the housing allowance tax exemption is unconstitutional. This issue has also been discussed among the ELCA bishops and is on the radar of Tom Cunniff, Associate General Counsel of the ELCA.

Mr. Cunniff has asked us to share with you that this ruling has no immediate effect and will most likely be appealed. He is also in agreement with the statement below from Bishop Matt Riegel, West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod.

Recognize that this is a ruling of one federal judge. The same judge had made a similar ruling in 2013, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, overturned it on the question of standing. Whether the plaintiffs have standing in this case remains to be seen. Also, remedy, I suppose, could be accomplished through means other than striking down the Internal Revenue Code's provision for clergy housing. We'll have to see if this gets appealed. We'll also have to see if this gets play beyond that circuit.

I ask that you remain calm and not speculate on any immediate impact. Do keep this issue and the legal counsel defending the IRS regulation in your prayers. Remember, we are not fighting this battle alone.

We are stronger and better together: Joining Jesus in the restoration of the world!

In Christ,

The Rev. Suzanne D. Dillahunt
Bishop