The Ohio Supreme Court has issued a controversial decision concerning church regional administrative headquarters. The 4-to-3 ruling in Church of God in Northern Ohio v. Levin means that while churches themselves are tax-exempt, a denomination’s administrative facility is not — because it is not used exclusively for worship or for charitable purposes.
The court also decided that property used primarily to support public worship is not exempt either, stating that public worship by itself is not a “charitable activity.”
Attorney Matt Krause of Liberty Counsel is disappointed with the decision. “We do not think the government has the duty or responsibility or even the prerogative to look into the interworkings of the church and decide which parts of the church are part of worship and which aren’t,” he argues.
Krause adds that the decision is even more troublesome when one looks closely at a church. He says “it seems to go against the same reasoning that usually when you have a tax-exempt church, you don’t just have the sanctuary as tax-exempt, but then allow the ministerial offices or the educational offices or Sunday school rooms not to be because they could be — quote, unquote — ‘administrative facilities.'”
The attorney contends that regional denomination offices are just as much a part of a church as the church itself is. In a motion for reconsideration filed Monday, ADF urges the court to consider the value that churches have to the general public through efforts such as community programs and aid for the needy. The motion argues that such charitable activities performed by religious institutions are of equal value and deserve the same tax-exempt treatment as those afforded to non-religious charitable institutions.