A case involving Chicago pastors and housing allowances will impact more than just people in the Windy City.
For decades pastors have legally received housing allowances as part of their job and those housing allowances are not taxed as income.
"This law applies not just to ministers but to lots of other professionals, and this lawsuit is an attack by an atheist group trying to take away housing allowances only for ministers," says attorney Luke Goodrich of Becket, the organization representing Chicago pastors.
"The bottom line," he says, "is that if this lawsuit succeeds, churches and ministers across the country face an extra $1 billion in taxes every year."
The atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) won a lawsuit in its home state of Wisconsin, and now Becket has appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The next step would be the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The atheist group in this lawsuit is arguing that those sorts of housing allowances should be denied only to ministers," says the attorney, "because they believe that any sort of fair tax treatment of ministers is a form of establishing religion under the First Amendment of the Constitution."
But the argument of Becket, he says, is that the ministers should be treated the same as other professionals as required by the constitution.