Clergy Housing Allowance Redux and Reflections

Is the religious housing allowance constitutional or not?  For the second time in the last four years, however, Wisconsin federal district court Judge Barbara Crabb has ruled the latter clergy-owned housing allowance unconstitutional, raising enormous religious liberty ramifications as well as extremely significant potential financial implications for many religious institutions. The ruling has been stayed for now, but the battle lines are well marked and controversy surrounding the issue surely will continue.  What’s different between Judge Crabb’s two rulings, and what can religious organizations expect next? 

Shifting Winds on Title VII’s Extension to Sexual Orientation? Zarda v. Altitude Express and the Trump Administration’s Amicus Brief

The Trump Administration has weighed in as to whether Title VII’s employment discrimination protections extend to sexual orientation claims, with a resounding “No.”  Through its amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the pending federal appeals case of Zarda v. Altitude Express, the U.S. Department of Justice asserts that employment-related sexual orientation discrimination claims do not fall within Title VII’s purview.  

Supreme Court Reproaches Missouri for Religious Discrimination and Protects Religious Liberty

By a 7-2 majority, the Supreme Court of the United States today reaffirmed that the government may not refuse publicly available benefits to religious institutions on the basis of their religion. In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, Director, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Court held that the State of Missouri violated Trinity Lutheran Church’s First Amendment Free Exercise Rights by denying state grant money for the refurbishing of a playground owned by Trinity—when the denial was explicitly because Trinity is a church. The Court’s decision should have far-reaching implications for other churches and faith-based organizations seeking to use government-provided grant money to advance their charitable efforts.