Kansas Church Will Have to Pay Taxes on State Senate Candidate’s Home

Remember Wichita City Council member and state Senate candidate Michael O’Donnell?

Michael O’Donnell

He’s the guy who said he was living in and paying rent for a house owned by a church (where his father preaches). But the church, as a tax-exempt institution, wasn’t paying taxes on that property… something you’re only allowed to do if a pastor’s living on the property.

That’s a serious problem. And the FFRF alerted the Sedgwick County Appraiser’s Office as soon as they found out.

Now, there’s been a happy resolution to the issue:

The home of Wichita City Council member and state Senate candidate Michael O’Donnell is going back on the tax rolls and his father’s church will get a bill for back taxes through 2010, the Sedgwick County Appraiser’s Office has ruled.

The Rev. Michael O’Donnell, pastor of Grace and father of the council member, said the church will refile a tax exemption request to the Kansas State Board of Tax Appeals, essentially appealing the appraiser’s ruling.

“We apologize that this situation has brought undo negative publicity to Councilman O’Donnell as he has more than met the requirements for his living in the home,” his father said. “We look forward to appearing before the Kansas State Board of Tax appeals and presenting our situation.”

His son said the issue shouldn’t negatively affect the Kansas Senate bid.

“It started out as a political agenda from the Wisconsin atheists,” council member O’Donnell said. “Nothing has changed with this issue being between the church and the county.”

[FFRF attorney Patrick] Elliott chuckled at the accusation.

“We’re an apolitical group, a nonprofit that does not get involved in elections or campaigns,” he said, “but we are concerned about state-church issues, including churches abusing tax privileges, which was the case here.”

You would’ve thought the Christian pastor would have been quicker to remedy the situation instead of placing blame on others. It’s almost as if religion doesn’t make you an honest person… huh. Shocking.

Good thing the atheist group was ready to do the right thing when the Christians were trying to hide from the law.

(Thanks to Scott for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • jdm8

    Paraphrase: “We blame our tax dodging on the people that reported it”

  • bigred

    It’s a start on taxing churches. I hope it continues.

    • ORAXX

      The constitution bars any law respecting an establishment of religion.  However, it’s always seemed to me that by exempting churches from taxation, that is recognition in itself.

      • http://kungfujoe.myopenid.com/ Erik Harris

         As much as I wish religious organizations had to pay taxes like the rest of us, I don’t think you can reasonably argue that their tax exemption is a violation of the establishment clause.  Recognition isn’t establishment, as long as it’s unbiased recognition based on secular (which is the opposite of sectarian, not “irreligious”) criteria.

        • jdm8

          I would keep a tax exemption for the funds and resources used to actually help people, like the food pantry when they’re going out to the community that aren’t members, but I think the exemption is questionable when most of the resources are for proselytization, i.e. the main auditorium/sanctuary.

  • judith sanders

    Kansas is a state with serious issues regarding abuse of eminent domain- your mom & pop business location can be taken so that the city or county can collect more taxes from the Walmart that replaces you.  So, I would think that people might be sensitive to tax-dodging complaints, even if your daddy is a preacher.

  • Amakudari

    Word of the day: backpfeifengesicht

    • michael both

      Hah, awesome! I shall begin to work this word into conversations immediately.

  • KDM

    He looks fabulous, at least. 

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

      snort. i was thinking the same thing, for all i shouldn’t be. “gayface” anyone? 

    • Anonymous Atheist

      Definitely setting off some gaydar: 
      http://www.realjock.com/gayforums/2605965

  • ORAXX

    The difference between organized crime and organized religion is……organized crime figures do, occasionally, get prosecuted for tax evasion.

  • Annie

    “It started out as a political agenda from the Wisconsin
    atheists,” council member O’Donnell said. “Nothing has changed with this
    issue being between the church and the county.”

    I don’t even understand what this is supposed to mean, but I love the strategy of writing a mildly coherent sentence, slapping in the words “political agenda” and “atheists”, then sitting back to watch all the Christians cry about persecution. 

  • Coyotenose

    Hemant, you need to start putting warnings at the top of the page if you’re going to keep posting that overly primped doll-smile pic. What if I’d been going to bed and saw that? NO SLEEP FOR ME NO SIR CITY COUNCILMAN WILL EAT ME

  • Jack M

    This dude looks just like the godbaby.  http://freethinker.co.uk/2012/09/29/meet-godbaby-the-latest-desperate-attempt-to-christify-christmas/

    • jdm8

      I was thinking one of the Ken doll’s flings. The picture does look like it’s been heavily retouched.

    • jdm8

      I was thinking one of the Ken doll’s flings. The picture does look like it’s been heavily retouched.

    • TnkAgn

      The guy looks like he’s about 12 years old. His confirmation picture, maybe?

  • http://twitter.com/arensb arensb

    We apologize that this situation has brought undo negative publicity to Councilman O’Donnell

    “Undo”? Really? Has it really come to this?

    Is there a browser plugin that’ll allow me to slap people like this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    excellent news

    Now….on to the Bishop of Springfield Ill who recently threatened the electorate that voting for Democrats would endanger their eternal salvation hopes…… seems a pretty clear abuse of the no preaching politics from the pulpit rules to me.


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