It is easy to see that both political parties in the United States, are very concerned about who is going to be appointed as judges, especially on the Supreme Court. A president serves a four-year term, but the impact of a judge can be felt for generations. Many people voted for President Trump purely to keep liberal judges off the court. The legacy of Democratic presidents has always included their choices for judges.
As an example of the concern, a major battle revolves around U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb who has consistently ruled against issues of faith. Crabb ruled that “The National Day of Prayer” was unconstitutional. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her decision.
Judge Crabb has twice sided with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on questions of taxes. Three years ago Crabb declared that the clergy housing allowance violated the First Amendment. The Freedom From Religion Foundation had filed the suit. The Justice Department argued that the FFRF wasn’t harmed because they could claim the benefit for themselves. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed judge Crabb’s decision and restored the housing allowance.
The leaders of the FFRF applied for the benefit and were denied by the Internal Revenue Service. This fall the FFRF sued again saying that religious leaders had a preference over secular employees. Crabb has again ruled in favor of their complaint. The case will probably be appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
The important point here is the intent of the benefit. Ministers provide needed services to the community. Because their pay is rather poor, the government was trying to help them with a basic expense. Secular workers are generally better paid and in most cases are not providing low cost or free services to the community. Also, the housing allowance is justified by the fact that ministers are required to live in the communities they serve.
A judge who seems to have a bias against religion can cause a hardship on many people who need the services that ministers provide. The impact of a judge, even a single judge, can affect the lives of many people with one decision.
–John N. Clayton © 2017