The government’s determination was based on a law passed by the Vermont legislature to eliminate some religious tax exemptions, but probably no one imagined that it would be used to deny exemption to a religious camp. Yet that is what the Vermont Supreme Court held when it ordered the religious camp to pay property taxes dating back to 2009. This is a devastating blow to a church that was generously providing charitable services for children that benefited society far more than government spending does.
The Vermont law did not necessarily require that the camp be taxed. The law actually exempted church edifices from taxation and Browning Center Church (now known as New Hope Bible Church) argued in court that the structures on its campsite were church edifices because they were used to propagate a religious message.
The Vermont Supreme Court should have recognized that the religious nature of the camp deserved tax exemption. We now wonder if any religious activity will be safe from taxation in the future. The Vermont Supreme Court should have recognized that the religious camp merited a tax exemption even under the new state law. Yes, the law was ambiguous, but the court should have sided with religious freedom.
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