(This piece is in response to the piece that was just posted a few minutes ago, a re-post of William Thornton’s SBC Plodder article concerning the housing allowance. Comments are open on this post as a place of discussion for both sites. Here is that article.)
Can someone please print a copy of SBC Plodder, wrap some fish in it, and send it to our friend William Thornton? In the imagery of The Godfather, this is how one signifies that someone dangerous to the mafia, such as Luca Brasi, now “sleeps with the fishes.” Someone needs to send William a message, and fast.
William is a talented blogger. Although I happen to disagree with him on a variety of denominational matters, I actually find his work in tracking Cooperative Program giving trends enlightening. He certainly does not put the spin on the situation that one sometimes feels is offered by denominational leaders. He is frank and forthright, qualities I normally appreciate in the writing of journalists and bloggers.
But now he needs to stick a sock in it.
Thornton raises thorny questions about the legal exclusion of taxable income by ministers through the Clergy Housing Allowance. His argument has been picked up and even advanced by Forbes magazine. He recently joked that only eight people read his blog, but if one of the eight writes for Forbes we may very well attract the attention of the rest of the secular media.
William, my brother, your articles on this subject are nothing less than friendly fire.
I am the first to admit that the Housing Allowance, like many other aspects of the tax code, harkens from an earlier era in American life in which clergy received such a break in light of their value to society and a wage scale that often meant being paid in the chickens and garden vegetables of one’s church members.
Granted, things have changed today. However, most ministers, myself included, have come to rely on this Housing Allowance, as it probably saves most clergymen a few thousand dollars each year in income taxes.
William, the people opposing the Housing Allowance are atheist organizations, such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Brother, most ministers are overeducated for their income level. They sacrifice to embrace a calling that is more important to them than financial gain. They work long hours for limited pay. Their dual tax status requires them to pay for Social Security through SECA at a rate of 15.3% rather than FICA at 7.65%. In all of this, there is at least one significant tax break provided in the United States tax code. Why do you want to consider eliminating it?
William, in one of our earlier exchanges, you mentioned we might get together for coffee sometime. I would enjoy that. But if you keep writing about this topic in the same manner, I will be more than happy to allow you to pick up the tab.