April 26, 2012 Print

Maine Town Levies Parking-Lot Tax on Church

by Karla Dial

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Methodist church in Rockland, Me., saying the county assessor is unconstitutionally applying a state law regarding property taxes and charitable organizations.

State law grants property tax exemptions to all charitable organizations. But Aldersgate United Methodist Church only received an exemption for its building — not its parking lot or the parsonage it rents to another pastor in town.

In a brief filed with the Board of Assessment Review, the city attorney wrote, “Were Aldersgate also entitled to exemption as a charitable and benevolent organization, the entire property would be exempt from taxation.”

That view, says ADF, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.

“Churches shouldn’t live in fear of being targeted by the government in ways other groups aren’t,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “It’s unconstitutional to single out churches to be treated differently simply because they are churches while allowing virtually identical nonreligious uses to have favorable tax treatment.”

In addition to worship services, Aldersgate United Methodist Church allows the community to use its facilities for several purposes—local orchestra practice, child development classes and Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

According to the Bangor Daily News, the Rockland Board of Assessment Review rejected the churches request for tax abatement last year.

Read the lawsuit filed in state court.



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