“Play Between the Joints” and Tax Theory: Reflections on Seventh Circuit’s Clergy Housing Allowance Ruling
On March 15, 2019, the Seventh Circuit issued its Gaylor v. Mnuchin ruling, upholding the clergy housing allowance’s constitutionality. This decision astutely recognizes that the fundamental questions in this case fall in a jurisprudentially gray area, or within the “play in the joints” between the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment clauses. Between these two foundational pillars of our liberal democracy, the Court’s constitutional interpretation rightly respects the independence of institutions for a free society, particularly as applied to the clergy housing allowance. Such deference further implicates the interplay between tax subsidy theory and religion.