Can a church-operated nursing home be exempt from property taxation? Yes, concluded a Texas appeals court.
The nursing facility, which was operated by a Christian Science church as part of its religious and charitable purposes, admitted persons without regard to their religious faith. However, all patients had to agree to rely entirely upon the Christian Science method of healing (the sole method practiced at the facility), and all were expected and encouraged to study Christian Science literature.
The facility charged a fee for its services, but did not turn away patients unable to pay. Its total operating revenue generally was well below its operating expenses. Such facts, concluded the court, clearly established the facility's exemption under a state law exempting from property taxation any facility organized exclusively for religious or charitable purposes that was engaged exclusively in providing support or housing to elderly persons without regard to their ability to pay.
The court rejected the state's contention that the facility's discrimination against non-Christian Scientists prevented its property from being exempt from taxation: "As long as a nursing home provides care to persons who would otherwise become burdens upon the state, it meets the requirement that its services benefit the general public, regardless of the religious motivations of its operators." Dallas County Appraisal District v. The Leaves, Inc., 742 S.W.2d 424 (Tex. App. 1987)