Author Archive: Michael Peabody

FEMA's reversal of no-aid policy for churches raises Constitutional concerns

FEMA's reversal of no-aid policy for churches raises Constitutional concerns

Last summer, Hurricane Harvey created a wake of destruction across southeast Texas, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stepped in to provide disaster-relief grants to some organizations. Under FEMA’s policy at the time, churches could receive funding to repair only those portions of their facilities where less than 50 percent of the space was used for religious purposes. As a result, schools or church-run hospitals and community centers could receive aid, but not church sanctuaries.

 
 

Why Congress dropped the Johnson Amendment repeal from tax reform

Why Congress dropped the Johnson Amendment repeal from tax reform

As part of the final push to enact tax reform before the end of the year, a proposed tax code change that would permit churches and other non-profit organizations to engage in partisan political campaigning has been dropped from the House and Senate reconciliation version of 2017 tax bill. Although the House version of the bill had included a repeal of the controversial Johnson Amendment, the Senate version kept it intact. Proponents of the repeal have argued for the right of pastors to speak freely about candidates from the pulpit, and opponents claim it would provide a "dark money" tax-exempt way to launder otherwise non-tax deductible campaign donations.

 
 

Potential Outcomes in Supreme Court Wedding Cake Case

Potential Outcomes in Supreme Court Wedding Cake Case

Next Tuesday, December 5, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a difficult case that pits the free exercise of religion and free speech rights of a wedding cake maker against the anti-discrimination rights of a same-sex couple. The couple demands the cake; the baker refuses because he thinks he will be sinning. The question is – can the state of Colorado make him bake the cake?

 
 

Tax-exemption of clergy housing violates Establishment Clause rules Federal judge

Tax-exemption of clergy housing violates Establishment Clause rules Federal judge

Last Friday a federal judge in Wisconsin issued a ruling that a federal statute that exempts housing for members of the clergy from taxation violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

 
 

US House votes to defund IRS investigations of church political endorsements

US House votes to defund IRS investigations of church political endorsements

  esterday, by a margin of 211 to 198, the U.S. House of Representatives quietly voted to defund IRS investigations of church political endorsements as part of a massive spending bill. On the bottom of page 21 of the text of the 2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, the drafters included the following language: SEC. 116. None of the funds […]

 
 

Life as One Piece: The Legacy of Dr. Charles Teel

Life as One Piece: The Legacy of Dr. Charles Teel

His passion in the classroom was the minor prophets – particularly the biblical books of Amos and Micah. He spoke of justice, and mercy and humility, and how being “religious” did not mean anything if you didn’t “defend the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:18)

 
 

States prohibiting all non-public school funding may escape Trinity Lutheran impact

States prohibiting all non-public school funding may escape Trinity Lutheran impact

States that have constitutional provisions that prohibit public aid to all private schools, regardless of whether or not they are religiously affiliated, might have a substantial argument against school voucher claims under Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.

 
 

Supreme Court asks lower courts to apply Trinity reasoning to school voucher cases

U.S. Supreme Court - DepositPhotos.com / trekandshoot

Supreme Court sends voucher cases back to the lower courts "for further consideration in light of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc., v. Comer." 

 
 

Supreme Court: State must include church in public funding scheme

Supreme Court: State must include church in public funding scheme

The Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer changes 200 years of Establishment Clause precedent and puts churches at risk of regulation.

 
 

Blessed are the Peacemakers: Why Adventist Clergy Stay Away from Partisan Politics

Blessed are the Peacemakers: Why Adventist Clergy Stay Away from Partisan Politics

  By Michael D. Peabody, Esq.   n a study released June 11, 2017, researchers from Yale and Harvard concluded that Seventh-day Adventist clergy in the United States are the most evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to politics. The study also found that nearly half were not registered to either party. Based on these numbers it […]