Taxing churches 'doesn't make sense'

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Charlie Butts (

A Tennessee church continues to fight against a local government's attempt to tax part of its property. An appeals court has heard arguments from both sides.

Christ Church in Nashville has non-profit facilities that Davidson County intends to tax because not all people who use them are people of faith. Tennesse state law requires all non-profit groups, including churches, to file for tax exemption for each piece of property -- and states that an essential condition for consideration for exemption status is that the property must be actively used for religious purposes.

But Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Erik Stanley tells OneNewsNow the church facilities in question, a bookstore-café and a gymnasium, are used in outreach efforts to draw people to Christ.

Stanley, Erik (ADF)"The record in this case is filled with instances where lives were changed because of the contacts that the church had with the community through the activities center, through the gym, through the café and the bookstore as people who would not normally come to the church came to the church," Stanley details.

In denying Christ Church a tax exemption, the ADF attorney suggests the county is trying to define what is religious and what is not.

"The situation Christ Church is facing is really emblematic of where a lot of churches find themselves as struggling governments across the country try to find new sources of revenue and they frequently look to the church," Stanley explains.

"But [government officials] don't understand that taxing churches just doesn't make sense," the attorney emphasizes, "and in fact, it raises a host of constitutional problems if the state interferes and limits the ability of the church to carry out its religious mission."

He adds that the societal contributions of the church far outweigh any tax revenue a government might receive.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals should issue a decision within the next couple of months.

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