Interprofessional Center

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Clinic students file first briefs for new religious liberty clinic

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Students in the University of St. Thomas School of Law’s new Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic wrapped up the clinic’s first semester this spring by submitting its first briefs to the federal courts of appeals for the Sixth and Seventh Circuits. 

The clinic’s first brief, drafted by 2L student Julie Cayemberg, was filed in the Seventh Circuit in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Lew, a case challenging the constitutionality of the federal tax-code provision that allows ministers to exclude from their taxable income a cash allowance they receive from their church employer for housing. The brief defends the housing-allowance exclusion based on the principle that government may treat ministers differently from other occupations in order to serve important church-state values—in this case, the value of treating all clergy and churches equally, since ministers who live in a church-owned parsonage are already able to exclude that benefit from their income. The brief also emphasizes that invalidating the allowance would seriously harm retired and near-retired ministers who, “in good faith, structured their finances and their retirement planning around a section of the tax code extant in its current form for 60 years.”

Drafting the brief “was more difficult...and more rewarding than I ever imagined and one of the best experiences of law school thus far,” Cayemberg said. “Somewhere in the innumerable drafts that I wrote, I became better at understanding what arguments really moved our case forward and which ones could be left out.”

Read more in UST School of Law News: Students file first briefs for new religious liberty clinic

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