Saturday, December 05, 2015

Church's Suit Challenges Tax Decision Based On Project Gone Awry

In Panama City, Florida, the Faith Christian Family Church along with Markus Bishop, its owner and former pastor, filed suit last Monday against the Bay County Property Appraiser’s Office seeking to reverse a decision that restored three of the church's properties to the tax rolls. According to the Panama City News Herald, the dispute grows out of an innovative church project gone awry:
The church “wanted, as a form of religious and charitable outreach, to create a safe venue for young persons who might otherwise be endangered or tempted by the Spring Break revelry,” the complaint states. Faith Christian’s “intended concept was to offer a party-like but wholesome atmosphere, with music, food and non-alcoholic beverages. … Charitable outreach to persons who may be in need of a welcoming and safe refuge is a core religious principle of [Faith Christian’s] religious faith and practice.”
The complaint goes on to say that a promotion entity named Spring Break Amnesia was enlisted to market the outreach mission but “apparently had its own ideas for marketing and operation” by charging a $20 admission, selling sexually explicit merchandise and hosting naked paint parties and slumber-party Sundays.
For good measure, tax officials also revoked the non-profit status of a vacant lot next to the Life Center at which the spring break project took place, as well as the non-profit status of a mansion which the church claimed was a parsonage. The church claims that removing the properties' non-profit status infringed the church's First Amendment rights.