Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Liberty Counsel Defends Religious Teachers’ Housing Exemptions Against ACLU Attack

Tomorrow, Liberty Counsel will argue on behalf of Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT) in Alaska Superior Court to defend religious teachers’ housing exemptions. The ACLU filed suit to take away property tax exemptions for housing that is owned by religious organizations and used by private school teachers.

Steve Crampton, General Counsel for Liberty Counsel, will argue the case on behalf of ABT, which is pastored by Dr. Jerry Prevo. The ACLU and other plaintiffs allege that the tax exemption violates equal protection and establishment clauses of the state and federal constitutions.

The exemption given by the Alaska legislature applies to the homes of ABT’s teachers, as well as similar properties owned by other religious organizations. Nonreligious educational institutions already enjoy an exemption for teacher housing. 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.

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 ACLU seeks to eliminate any exemption for religious institutions, regardless of the harm that would result to thousands of Alaskan children receiving quality education at no cost to the state. This exemption does nothing more than equal the playing field between religious and nonreligious educators. The ACLU and its ilk should be ashamed at even filing this baseless action.