Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Disaffiliated Church's Property Reverts to Denomination
A local church may lose the right to its property when it leaves its denomination.
Key point. A parachurch ministry may qualify for property tax exemption as a "house of public worship" though it is not formally affiliated with a church and does not have members.
Key point. Vacant land may be exempt from property taxation if it is primarily for religious purposes.

A Michigan court ruled that an 1,800-acre retreat owned by a parachurch ministry was exempt from property tax as a "house of public worship." The Institute in Basic Life Principles is a religious organization founded by Rev. William Gothard in 1961. Its purpose is to "give clear instruction on how to apply God's basic principles of life as revealed it the Scriptures" through seminars, meetings, literature, and broadcasting. The Institute owns an 1,800-acre conference center that includes a lodge, a hotel with 90 rooms, an auditorium where worship services are conducted, a dining room for guests, and a gymnasium. The founder also uses the property to write religious materials for his seminars. A state tax agency determined that the entire property was subject to property tax, since it did not qualify for exemption under state law. Michigan law exempts:

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Posted: May 1, 1997



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