We keep saying church ought to taxed and the New Hampshire Supreme Court has found a novel way to do it… kind of.
Here’s the backstory: When the Liberty Assembly of God (now called Destiny Christian Church) opened, they were given the same religious tax exemption all churches get. In 2008, the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) realized that most of this property wasn’t really part of the church — there was a school and dormitory that had no real religious purpose — and they sent the church a tax bill for the non-religious parts of the property. The church appealed… but last week, the State Supreme Court voted 4-0 (PDF) to affirm the earlier ruling — in other words, the tax bill stands!
So… vacant apartments? Taxed.
Storage rooms? Taxed.
Dorm rooms used as storage rooms? Taxed.
Second-floor men’s restroom? Taxed.
The church argued that the vacant rooms were used to house the homeless and needy — part of their church’s mission — but the records show the rooms were infrequently used… and one of them was just a makeshift apartment for a church advisory board member’s grandson:
The BTLA specifically found that the grandson’s occupancy of the room “was not so much the result of an expression of [Assembly’s] intent to provide housing for the needy as it was a consequence of him being related to a member of [Assembly’s] advisory board and a convenience for him by not having to find alternative housing.”
The BTLA found that the bathroom “appeared to exist primarily to serve any occupants of the second floor dorm rooms and did not appear to be critical for the congregation’s activities that occur on the first floor.” To the extent that the bathroom was used by congregants, “such use,” the BTLA found, “did not appear to be significant or critical for the religious use of the Property on the first floor.” Assembly apparently challenges these findings as unreasonable because the caretaker testified that parishioners used the second-floor men’s room during worship services. Assembly, thus, impliedly asserts that the BTLA failed to weigh the testimony properly. We defer to the BTLA’s judgment in determining the weight to be given evidence. Because Assembly has not demonstrated by a clear preponderance of the evidence… that the second-floor restroom was “owned, used and occupied directly for religious training or for other religious purposes,” we cannot find error in the BTLA’s finding such space taxable.
So… First floor bathroom? Holy shit. Second floor bathroom? Not so much.
Because the church can’t pay the tax bill, the property is currently on the market for $650,000. No takers yet.
(Thanks to GodVlogger for the link!)