U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb ruled Feb. 11 that the Supreme Court might “change or clarify the law” regarding taxpayers’ standing to sue. If it does, that “could alter or limit the need for further argument” in the case challenging tax benefits on pastors’ housing, his ruling said.
In the case before Shubb, the Freedom from Religion Foundation claims the housing alowance for ministers is unconstitutional because it constitutes a government endorsement of religion. The foundation filed the suit in U.S. District Court for California’s Eastern District in October 2009.
The case Shubb cites in his ruling is one of a pair of lawsuits challenging an Arizona tax credit meant to encourage scholarships for children to attend private schools. Opponents of the tax credit also claim a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban on establishment of religion.
In the Arizona cases, a federal district court ruled the tax policy’s wording was neutral toward religion. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that finding and directed the lower court to examine how the law actually operates.
The state and several scholarship tuition organizations appealed the 9th Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which heard oral argument Nov. 3.
In his ruling, Shubb said all parties to the lawsuit over the tax credits on pastors’ housing agreed to ask for the delay. The Supreme Court’s action in the case involving scholarships could help limit effort and expense in the lawsuit over taxes on housing, he said.