A recently concluded court case has clarified who among Canadian religious workers qualify for certain tax benefits.

For the past several years, Revenue Canada has been challenging the rights of Christian ministers and parachurch leaders to claim a tax deduction for clergy housing. With the help of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) and a $2 million fund raising campaign for legal expenses, dozens of those denied the deduction appealed to the Tax Court of Canada. By the conclusion of this round, 38 out of 46 appellants received favorable decisions.By Josh Kennedy in Pontiac.

Judge D. G. H. Bowman heard cases from Bible colleges, youth and campus ministries, and overseas missions. He considered such factors as income level, whether the individual acted as a minister of a congregation or as a member of a religious order, and whether the work emphasized more proselytism or social work.

For example, Bowman declared that Youth for Christ worker Sherryl Koop of Winnipeg, a chaplain to young offenders, is, in effect, a minister of a congregation. Given her ministry and level of self-sacrifice, Bowman found Revenue Canada's prior ruling "little short of startling."

On the other hand, Bowman concluded Navigators is not a religious order, their staff live comfortably, and the bulk of their efforts are spent on proselytizing, so he upheld the decision not to grant the housing tax break. Navigators is considering an appeal.

Another 150 appeals are before the court, and 400 more people have been told they do not qualify for the deduction. Revenue Canada's action is part of its major re-examination of charities in Canada. Current legislation is based on English common law. There are 76,000 registered charities in Canada, more than 40 percent of which are religious.

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