In Anchorage, AK on Friday the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that a church will be allowed to defend a lawsuit brought by the ACLU challenging certain tax exemptions.
Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT) sought to intervene in two lawsuits challenging a statewide tax exemption on real property owned by a religious organization when the property serves as the residence of an educator in a private religious or parochial school. The ACLU and other plaintiffs allege that the exemptions violate equal protection and establishment clauses of the state and federal constitutions. ABT is represented by Liberty Counsel. Dr. Jerry Prevo is the pastor of ABT.
ABT operates a number of ministries, 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 house 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. Without the exemption, ABT would have to divert approximately $23,000 per year from its other services to pay property taxes. That continuing tax liability would force ABT 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.
Alaska Baptist Temple will now have its day in court to defend a fair and reasonable tax exemption against the ACLU's frivolous attack. Evidently the ACLU would rather kick the teachers out in the cold. This attitude shows a callous indifference to the educational needs of Alaskan children.