Good News: Miami’s oldest church has been slapped with a $7 million property tax bill by the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser for violating its religious exemption status.
According to reports, the church is being taxed because it leased a portion of church grounds to a for-profit school and various food trucks.
The Miami Herald reports:
The First Presbyterian Church of Miami, the oldest organized congregation in the city, has been hit with a $7.1 million tax bill by the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser, which claims the church has leased a portion of church grounds to a for-profit school and food trucks, violating its religious exemption status.
The church, located at 609 Brickell Ave., has run a K-8 religious school on the property since 2008. The bill comprises a tax lien totaling $6.5 million (including interest and fines) for the years 2009-2017 and a current bill of $509,526.24 for the 2018 year.
The Christian Post reports:
First Miami has used part of its campus for the operation of KeyPoint Christian Academy, a for-profit K-8 institution that has about 178 students and 45 teachers, since 2008. Additionally, the church rents out space to food trucks.
According to reports, the First Presbyterian Church is fighting the tax bill. Attorneys for the church argue that the operation of the for profit school “is motivated by the Church’s sincere religious beliefs.”
A complaint filed of behalf of the church states:
By partially revoking the Property’s tax exempt status and seeking to collect the tax allegedly owed for 2018, the Defendants have acted in an arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory manner and thereby denied the Church equal protection under the law in violation of the Church’s constitutional rights.
However, Franklin Zemel, a partner at the Fort Lauderdale office of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, who represents dozens of churches, synagogues and mosques around the country, does not think the tax entails religious discrimination. Zemel said:
What’s happening to this church is the ultimate nightmare scenario. I don’t see this as religious discrimination. I don’t see anything that suggests the county is acting in a mean or arbitrary way. To me, it sounds like you’ve got a church that is leasing out a school, they’re making money and not paying what they owe.
Bottom line: Miami’s oldest church has been slapped with a $7 million property tax bill by the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser for violating its religious exemption status.