Conference joins amicus brief on taxation of religious property


The Massachusetts Conference joined with the Massachusetts Council of Churches and numerous other denominations in filing an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the state's Supreme Judicial Court in a case revolving around taxation of religious property.

The case involves the decision of the Attleboro Tax Assessors to charge property tax on portions of the Shrine of LaSalette that they felt were not used for worship or religious education, including a cafeteria, gift shop and 110 acres of wooded space. The Shrine has appealed that decision.

"We believe the tax assessor’s attempt to categorize and then divide religious space is both not right and not possible," said Laura Everett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches. 

"The tax assessors of Attleboro, or anywhere, cannot divide religious spaces from non-religious spaces within a church-owned property. For many religious traditions, worship, service, and charity are indivisible and inseparable," she said. "The tax assessors have made false distinctions that go to the heart of religious self-understanding,  Defining 'houses of religious worship' to include only those 'structures' that a local assessor may understand to be 'traditionally' associated with religious organizations opens the door to favoritism and marginalization."

"The First Amendment and the Massachusetts Constitution safeguards that the church, synagogue, mosque, gurdwara or shrine (not the government) determines their religious practices for themselves," she said.

The Massachusetts Conference Board of Directors voted by email to join the brief, given its likely importance to local churches who may be impacted by it.

The case was argued before the Superior Court on Tuesday, April 5.

Laura Everett's appearance on WGBH discussing the case:

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