Sunday, October 13, 2013

American Conservative repeats bogus 2007 Ocean Grove, New Jersey religious liberty parable

Even comparatively high-toned conservative examinations of perceived threats to religious liberty by teh gays can't seem to shake the ideological equivalent of Internet chain-emailed urban fables. This, from American Conservative:
     Religious schools and charities could suffer penalties such as the loss of government funding or state credentials necessary to operate. They could also have their tax-exempt status taken from them.
     The latter actually happened to a group of New Jersey Methodists in the 2007 Ocean Grove case. That state court decision held that the New Jersey government was permitted to withdraw a special tax exemption, tied to public access, from a church-owned pavilion that declined to host two gay commitment ceremonies. What happened next, says Wilson, set an ominous precedent.
     “The local taxing authority then removed the local exemption for ad valorem taxes for the pavilion, and then billed them for back taxes,” she says. “That tax benefit is one of the most substantial benefits religious groups receive from the government. Although the group had elected a local tax status tied to public access, if state and local governments use this as a guide for how to deal with religious organizations that don’t accept same-sex marriage, that could be a big deal.”
Good old reliable Rob Tisinai wasn't about to let this go unanswered; he posted the following comment:  
October 12, 2013 at 11:23 am    
     Are you really bringing up the Ocean Grove case, Rod? As usual with the conservative telling of the story, you’ve left out [a] key fact.
     The actual facts aren’t so ominous. Ocean Grove simply applied for the wrong kind of property tax exemption. Instead of basing it on religious grounds, they applied under a state program that gave non-profit corporations a tax break on property that is “open for public use on an equal basis.” Ocean Grove obviously violated the agreement and lost the exemption on their pavilion.
     But here’s the thing…
     Ocean Grove later applied for a religious tax exemption on the facility, and got it, leaving them free to discriminate without paying property taxes. 

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