The Gift of Religious Tax Exemptions, On Balance

Christmas is the season for gift-giving as Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ birth. More broadly, all religions within the United States enjoy the gift of tax exemption.  But just how far does tax exemption extend – and is it truly a gift, or a right?  Does tax exemption extend only under Section 501(c)(3)?  What other taxes also affect churches?  Tax scholar and law professor Edward Zelinsky answers these questions in the newly published book Taxing the Church (Oxford University Press 2017), addressing the diversity of which houses of worship are taxed, the normative question of whether they should be taxed, and provides a fourfold framework for understanding church taxation.

Immunity or Not? Charitable Tort Liability Limits in Modern Times

When may a nonprofit charity be held liable for personal injuries to others caused by its agents?  In legal parlance, this is known as “tort” liability – i.e., a civil wrong arising from negligence or intentional wrongdoing of an organization or its agents.  A charity’s “agents” may be its employees, directors, officers, and even other volunteers – that is, a person acting under the organization’s authority. Such potential tort liability is why nonprofits adopt safety standards and carry liability insurance, as they ought

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?