Religion Clause: Maryland High Court Says Apartment Building Housing Mormon Ordinance Workers Is A Tax Exempt Convent

I thought this was interesting:

Religion Clause: Maryland High Court Says Apartment Building Housing Mormon Ordinance Workers Is A Tax Exempt Convent.

I may edit this post and provide further commentary after I have had a chance to read and thoroughly digest the opinion of the Maryland Court of Appeals.  In the meantime, here is the “money quote” from the decision:

Distilling the various definitions offered by the parties and researched by this Court, we have concluded that there are several basic qualities a convent must contain in order to be eligible for a tax exemption: A convent consists of a community of people who live together, follow strict religious vows, and devote themselves full-time to religious work.  This definition does not expand impermissibly the scope of the property tax exemption, and it avoids an unduly narrow reading of the [Maryland tax exemption] statute.

In light of our decision as to what constitutes a convent, we conclude that the Tax Court applied an incorrect legal standard in determining whether the apartment complex qualified as a convent for purposes of [the statute (footnote omitted)]. The facts are not in dispute, and, based on the record as developed by the parties, the apartment complex qualifies as a convent by application of the definition set forth in this opinion. The ordinance workers qualify as a “community of people who live together.” Although the workers inhabit separate units within the apartment complex, they live together at one location, socialize, and worship together as a group every Sunday. In addition, the ordinance workers “follow strict religious vows” and are removed from their positions working in the Temple if they forsake them. Finally, the ordinance workers “devote themselves full-time to religious work,” as they spend their days each week during their two-year commitment performing religious ceremonies within the Temple, and they hold no outside employment.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. B. Marie Green, Supervisor of Assessments of Montgomery County, slip op. at 22-23, http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2013/35a12.pdf

The opinions expressed with regard to the decision are my own, and, as I am not licensed to practice law in any state, they do not constitute legal advice.  Another thing that struck me while reading the decision is that the initial decision of the Supervisor of Assessments to revoke the apartment’s tax exempt status, issued as it was with no explanatory commentary, seemed to violate another general principle of law.

A general principle of administrative law is that the decisions of bodies such as the ones at issue in this case may not be arbitrary or capricious.  I admit, I am not familiar specifically with Maryland’s Administrative Procedures Act (or its analogue), but to suddenly revoke a tax exemption that had been in place for years with no explanation does seem rather arbitrary and capricious to me.

Times and Seasons’ Sam Brunson (he’s a loyah, a law professuh, and a tax expoit … or at least, he’s more of one than I am when it comes to the first and last of those classifications) has this to say about the decision:

http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php/2013/01/how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-maria/

I’m not sure what The Sound of Music has to do with taxes, and/or what the title of the post has to do with the topic, but Brother/Professor Brunson does discuss the decision therein.  So I guess all I have to say is, “What he said!” ;-D

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About kenngo1969

Just as others must breathe to live, I must write. I have been writing creatively almost ever since I learned to write, period! I have written fiction, book- and article-length nonfiction, award-winning poetry, news, sports, features, and op-eds. I hope, one day, to write some motivational nonfiction, a decent-selling novel, a stage play, and a screen play.
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