“Second Verse, Same as the First?” – Clergy Housing Allowance Under Attack… Again

Like the old Herman’s Hermit’s song, “I’m Henry the Eighth I Am,” some legal complaints just don’t seem to go away.  Over the years, Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code, which excludes from income tax a clergy person’s “parsonage or housing allowance,” has come under legal attack in a number of cases.  Up until now, the legal challenges have been struck down, leaving the important clergy housing allowance exemption intact.  As recently as 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down one such case.  However, this year, and in response to that case, a new carefully crafted and

Iowa Law Threatens Churches, Through Definition as “Public Accommodation” And Speech Restrictions

An Iowa church has challenged the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) over its interpretation, as published in “A Public Accommodations Provider’s Guide to Iowa Law,” that churches may be included as a “public accommodation” subject to the Iowa Civil Rights Act (Act).   Under this unprecedented encroachment on religious liberty, free speech, and other constitutional rights, Iowa churches and other religious organizations are now subject to liability for preaching about their sincerely held Biblical beliefs about sexuality, restricting bathroom and locker room access, and other expressions of religious beliefs. 

The recently filed lawsuit, brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, seeks to strike down the law as unconstitutional in multiple respects.   In quick response, the ICRC has updated its brochure with some helpful clarifications, but the underlying legal issues are still of great concern.

Background – Churches Left Alone, But Not in Iowa

As religious institutions owning private property, churches have long been able to preach, teach, and determine their facility usage in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs without government intervention.  In the wake of increasing anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell same-sex marriage decision last year, however, a key legal question under state and local law has emerged:  whether a church could be considered a “public accommodation” and therefore subject to such laws’ restrictions. 

Transgender Access Policies for Nonprofits: Legal Requirements and General Considerations

Myriad questions abound in our current times regarding transgender issues, legal and otherwise.  For nonprofit leaders, what legal compliance, privacy considerations, and other implications arise for their organizations’ facilities and programs in light of transgender issues?  Should nonprofits develop a transgender bathroom policy and, if so, what elements should be included?  More specifically, how do nonprofit organizations across the spectrum – including those seeking to promote LGBT equality, those with religious missions and convictions that conflict with transgender advocacy, and those serving youth – address such policies from a legal compliance standpoint? 

Recent Developments

The term “transgender” generally refers to people whose gender identity or expression differs from their biological sex.  Following in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings on same-sex marriage and the legislative trend of new state and local anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, transgender advocacy is steadily increasing in scope, intensity, and media attention.