December 24, 2010

41CN: Church Parking "Fee" Spurs Lawsuit in Kansas Town

Church Parking “Fee” Spurs
Lawsuit in Kansas Town
Alliance Defense Fund says Mission, Kansas, wrong to tax churches
A “transportation utility fee” imposed on residences, businesses and churches in the city of Mission, Kansas, a town located not far from Kansas City, has drawn a lawsuit contending that churches are being “taxed” illegally.

The fee, voted by city leaders in August, will slap a “big box” store such as Target with an annual bill of $46,000 to help Mission, a 2.5-square-mile city, with road repair. Single-family homes are assessed a $72 per-year charge, media reports indicate.

Two congregations, the First Baptist Church of Mission and the St. Pius X Catholic Church in Mission, have been charged $970.77 and $1,685.19, respectively, based on a formula of 5.8 visits per week times the number of members of a congregation.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which bills itself as “a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith,” filed a suit against the City of Mission alleging the “fee” is a tax, as courts in Florida and Idaho have found in similar cases.

The lawsuit, First Baptist Church of Mission v. City of Mission, was filed with the District Court of Johnson County, Kansas.

“No one should be taxing church attendance, but that’s what this tax does: it punishes churches based on their attendance,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said in a statement. “Cleverly disguising a tax as a fee is just another way to penalize churches and other non-profit organizations and charities by subverting their tax exemptions so the government can collect more money. This driveway tax is simply outrageous. Will we soon be seeing a ‘sidewalk tax’ based on the number of people who walk to church?”

There are no Seventh-day Adventist congregations in Mission, Kansas, the conference web site reveals.