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New pension law corrects inequalities for church plans

DALLAS (BP)–President Bush signed into law Aug. 17 legislation that includes provisions designed to put an end to unequal treatment of church pension plans.

O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, commended the new law, which extends to churches the same exemptions currently applied to government and multi-employer plans.

“The implementation of this legislation will enable us to better serve those who are serving the Lord throughout this great nation and the world,” Hawkins said.

The Pension Protection Act includes changes to provisions in the Internal Revenue Code that have negatively affected particular types of church plans. For example, church pension programs now will have the same favorable tax treatment as other pension programs regarding certain types of investments.

Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison, R.-Texas, the sponsor of the church pension provisions in the new law, described the reforms as “simple and fair.”

“They extend important exemptions to church pension plans just as they are provided to other government and private plans,” Hutchison said in a written statement. “Church pensions provide critical support to over a million clergy members across the country. Many of them have dedicated their careers to serve in economically disadvantaged communities. They should not be punished for devoting their lives to serve those most in need.”

Hawkins thanked Hutchison and her staff for their work in achieving the reforms.

“I am personally grateful for Senator Hutchinson’s diligence and dedication in bringing these matters to a successful conclusion,” Hawkins said. “Time after time, the senator and her staff have demonstrated their commitment to those who serve our churches and faith-based organizations.”

Before signing the bill, Bush called it the “most sweeping reform of America’s pension laws in over 30 years.”

The House of Representatives passed the Pension Protection Act with a 279-131 vote July 28. The Senate voted 93-5 Aug. 3 for the overall legislation, which was sponsored by Rep. John Boehner, R.-Ohio.

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