Court Says City Can Tax Church Room By Room
Update (April 13, 2013): Less than one year after losing its tax fight in the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Destiny Christian Church has been sold to a realty developer. According to the Concord Monitor, the property "will be subdivided to build new homes, with the hope of selling part of an existing church building to a church and selling the remaining acreage as farmland."
New Hampshire cities can tax churches on portions of their property deemed not to be used for religious purposes, according to a unanimous ruling by the state's Supreme Court.
In 2008, the City of Concord taxed Liberty Assembly of God (now Destiny Christian Center) on 40 percent of its property, including vacant apartments, storage rooms, and a second-floor men's restroom. The church appealed, arguing that "the city wasn't empowered to decide, room by room, which parts of a church were and were not religious," according to the Concord Monitor.
The state Supreme Court disagreed, ruling 4-0 that "a church's assertion that a building constitutes a 'house of public worship' is [not] sufficient to place it beyond investigation" for an exemption from property taxes.
Christianity Today has reported on how the struggling economy has prompted cash-strapped cities to take a harder line on tax exemptions and zoning permits for churches, as well as tension between cities and churches over land use.