Monday, February 26, 2018

  • Monday, February 26, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon


Reuters reported on yesterday's closing of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:
Church leaders in Jerusalem shut the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday in protest at a new Israeli tax policy and a proposed land expropriation law which they called an unprecedented attack on Christians in the Holy Land.

Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian church leaders said the holy site, a popular stop for pilgrims and where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried, would remain closed until further notice.

...The churches’ protest was also aimed at the recent cancellation by Israel’s Jerusalem municipality of a tax exemption it has granted to church-owned commercial properties in the city.

This reminds us all of laws of a similar nature which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe,” the church leaders said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said on Twitter it was illogical to expect that church-owned commercial property, including hotels and retail businesses, would continue to enjoy tax-exempt status.

“Let me make it clear: we are not talking about houses of worship, who will still be exempt from property tax, according to law,” he wrote.

Outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, pilgrims voiced their disappointment at finding its doors shut.

“I am very upset. It’s my first time here and I made a big effort to get here and now I find it closed,” said Marine Domenech from Lille, France.

EoZ contributor Irene points out to me:
As a Catholic, I am outraged that Christian leaders closed a church to protest a government policy. These people live in a democracy and in a society that affords them many ways to protest or challenge government actions.  Closing one of the holiest churches in Christiandom should not be one of them. 

Pilgrims from all over the world travel (at great expense) to Jerusalem just to visit Christian sites.  Presumably quite a few of them will be traveling home without having been able to attend mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. 

I think that Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat should announce that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher just lost its tax exempt status because it is being used for political purposes rather than worship, as evidenced by its closure, which apparently included locking its doors. He should assess taxes at least for the day(s) it is closed. 
And then she pointed me to an overview article of American tax law and religious institutions. It makes several points:

Tax Exemptions Are Not a Right

The most fundamental thing to understand is that no group and no church is “owed” a tax exemption. These exemptions on various taxes are in no way protected by the Constitution — they are created by the legislatures, regulated by the legislatures, and can be taken away by the legislatures. At the same time, tax exemptions — including those for religious groups — are not prohibited by the Constitution.

No Tax Exemptions for Commercial Activity

Tax exemptions are almost entirely restricted to those affairs which are religious rather than commercial in nature. Thus, there are numerous tax exemptions on property owned by churches and used for religious worship, but exemptions are normally denied on property used for commerce and business. The site of an actual church will be exempt, but the site of a church-owned shoe store will rarely if ever, be exempt.

Court Cases:
Diffenderfer v. Central Baptist ChurchGibbons v. District of Columbia

The same is true for income from sales. Money a church receives from donations of members and from financial investments are normally treated as tax-exempt. On the other hand, money which a church receives from the sale of goods and services — even including goods like religious books and magazines — will normally have sales tax applied, though not income tax at the other end.

Court Cases:
Jimmy Swaggart Ministries v. CaliforniaHaller v. Pennsylvania
For church leaders in Jerusalem to compare taxing commercial church property to persecution of Jews in the Dark Ages - by their Christian ancestors! - is a special kind of perversion.




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