Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Alaska Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Churches' Request to Defend Tax Exemption

Alaska Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Churches’ Request to Defend Tax Exemption
Anchorage, AK – Today the Alaska Supreme Court will hear oral arguments by Liberty Counsel on behalf of several churches seeking to defend a lawsuit brought by the ACLU that challenges certain tax exemptions.
Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT) and other churches are seeking to intervene in two lawsuits brought by the ACLU and some Alaska residents who are challenging a statewide law that provides tax exemption for real property owned by a religious organization that serves as the residence of an educator in a private religious or parochial school. Dr. Jerry Prevo is the pastor of ABT.
The ACLU and other Plaintiffs allege that the exemptions violate federal and state equal protection and establishment clauses.
ABT operates a number of ministries throughout Anchorage and surrounding communities, including alcohol and drug abuse recovery programs, community outreaches, children’s programs, a bus transportation service, music programs, and Anchorage Christian School, a K-12 school serving approximately 700 students. ABT owns six residences that are used as housing for teachers at Anchorage Christian School. These residences are integral to ABT’s educational mission, in that they enable ABT to recruit and retain a well-qualified teaching staff despite being unable to offer the wage and benefit programs offered by public schools. The “religious teacher exemption” enacted by the Alaska Legislature applies to ABT’s teachers’ residences, as well as similar properties owned by other religious organizations. The tax exemption enables ABT to continue funding the services it provides to the people of Anchorage. If the statute were to be invalidated, then ABT would be faced with having to divert approximately $23,000 per year from its ministries in order to pay property taxes. Facing such a continuing tax liability would compel ABT to have to choose between recruiting and retaining teachers and providing services to the community. Other churches will face similar hardships if the tax exemption law is invalidated.
This case illustrates that the ACLU is callous towards the well-being of children. The ACLU would rather kick the kids out in the cold than to provide a good education, and the reason for the opposition is solely based on irrational religious bigotry.