Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Monday, January 20, 2014

Vermont Supreme Court Forces Church Camp to Pay Taxes

The latest example of government intrusion on religious freedom is a Vermont Supreme Court decision to force a church camp to pay property taxes. The church camp seeks “to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ … through various ministries consistent with the Holy Scriptures,” which is traditionally a tax-exempt purpose. The camp was run by a Christian church, the Browning Center Church. Founded in 1997, the camp has been tax-exempt for years. But in 2008, the town of Irasburg reevaluated the church’s property-tax exemption and demanded taxes.

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.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A disgrace. I hope they appeal and win. This sets a bad precedent.

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