Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Hampshire High Court Upholds Partial Tax Exemption For Church Property

In Appeal of Liberty Assembly of God, (NH Sup. Ct., May 22, 2012), the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that under state statutory law, space in a house of worship must be used and occupied directly for religious training or for other religious purposes in order to be tax exempt.  It thus upheld a decision of the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals exempting only 60% of a church's main building. The court observed, however: "that an apportionment inquiry 'must not be taken to an absurd extreme so that every square foot of a building is rigidly scrutinized.  Rather, . . . judgment is the touchstone.'" The court also rejected the argument that civil authorities would become unconstitutionally entangled with religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause, if they examine the religious uses and purposes of each room in the main building.  The Concord Monitor reports on the decision.