Friday, March 30, 2018

Unordained Music Minister May Claim NJ Parsonage Exemption

In Clover Hill Reformed Church v. Township of Hillsborough, (NJ Tax Ct., March 23, 2018), the New Jersey Tax court held that, even though he is not ordained, a church's Minister of Music qualifies as an "officiating clergyman" so that he may claim the parsonage exemption from state property tax for the home furnished to him by the church. The court said in part:
Where adherents to a faith have a sincerely held belief that a person is a leader in providing worship services to a congregation, and that belief is corroborated by objective evidence of that person's training, experience, and responsibilities, the courts should hesitate to discount those beliefs because of the absence of an act, such as ordination, the court believes is necessary to impart the status of clergyman. It is not for the judiciary to impose on a religious congregation its view of who is or is not a clergyman in that congregation. The court's only role is to determine whether the legislative objectives expressed in the exemption statute have been met.