Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, through its Institute for Public Affairs, applauded swift and unified efforts by the U.S. Congress and President Bush to support the welfare and work of America’s clergy by acting to protect the longstanding allowance for clergy to deduct fair market housing costs from their federal taxes.
This 80 year old policy allowing American clergy a tax exclusion for housing costs, has been called into question by a U.S. Court of Appeals in California questioning its constitutionality. Like scores of other religious denominations, the Orthodox Jewish community is deeply concerned about the burden that eliminating the “parsonage allowance” would impose upon America’s clergy and the people and institutions they serve. While confident that the question of §107’s constitutionality would ultimately be resolved in favor of the clergy, we worry about the disruptions protracted litigation over this question will generate.
Thus, the Orthodox Union, its member synagogues and affiliated rabbis, are deeply grateful to the U.S. Congress for swiftly passing legislation designed to clarify and codify the clergy housing allowance and its provisions into the federal tax code, and thereby moot the case before the Court of Appeals. Over the course of the last several weeks, this bipartisan legislation passed the House by a vote of 408-0 and the Senate by unanimous consent.
This morning, President Bush will sign this legislation into law. Rabbi Herschel Billet – President of the Rabbinical Council of America (the clergy affiliate of the UOJCA with more than 1,000 rabbis in its membership) and spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Woodmere (New York) — will be among the members of the clergy attending the Oval Office signing ceremony.