Shire Free Church Makes Sentinel Front Page, Above the Fold

CoexistThanks to the Keene Sentinel’s Kyle Jarvis for this excellent Sunday edition, front page, above-the-fold article about the Shire Free Church!  The church’s Keene parsonage is the subject of the piece, but it also covers the purpose of the church and my comment about war and Christians made it in as well.  (You can like Shire Free Church here on Facebook – we just turned 100 there!)  Here’s the piece, the headline of which differs (and is better) in the print edition, “Shire Free, tax free?”:

Two members of a local activist group have applied for tax-exempt status, under religious considerations, for the Leverett Street property one of them formerly owned.

Ian B. Freeman and Darryl W. Perry, both members of the group often referred to as Free Keene who operate a blog of the same name, have applied to the city for tax-exempt status at 73 and 75 Leverett Street.

Freeman and Perry filed the application dated March 6 — in which they identify themselves as ministers of the Shire Free church — with the city’s assessing department.

“We’re going to review it, and we’ll make our recommendation to the Keene board of assessors, and they’ll make a determination,” City Assessor Daniel Langille said Thursday.

The Keene board of assessors is made up of three members: Cynthia Georgina, Barry LeClair and Mary Ann Robator.

The board has until July 1 to make a ruling on the application, Langille said.

Freeman and Perry are both members of a loosely organized group of residents who protest so-called victimless crimes, such as seat belt and helmet laws, open container violations, and drug possession.

In late 2012, a handful of members began an activity they dubbed “Robin Hooding,” or filling expired meters before parking enforcement officers can write tickets for them.

The city sued those members last year for allegedly harassing and intimidating the officers, but Cheshire County Superior Court Judge John C. Kissinger dismissed the claim, citing First Amendment protections.

The city’s legal team has since appealed that ruling, and a decision is pending before the N.H. Supreme Court.

Under state statute, a person or entity can apply for tax-exempt status in three categories: charitable, educational or religious, Langille said.

Freeman said the Shire Free Church Monadnock, which has already obtained nonprofit status from the state, is less about promoting a particular practice of faith or religion than it is about promoting peace.

“The idea behind it is that a lot of churches are, for lack of a better term, state churches,” he said in a telephone interview Saturday. “They sort of simultaneously (practice religion) and worship the state.”

Freeman said many churches and their members promote war.

“I don’t support war, and I don’t believe people who consider themselves Christian should support war either,” he said. “So, Christians, Muslims, Quakers, anyone who supports peace is welcome in the Shire Church. It gives them a place to go where they can find people who share their beliefs, even if they don’t share theological beliefs.”

The annual taxes on the Leverett Street property are about $6,000, Freeman said.

The land with the properties is assessed at $61,800, while the building is assessed at $116,800 for a total assessment of $178,600, according to city records.

Last year, Freeman paid the taxes for the first half of the year, but then donated the property to the Shire Society, which paid 45 percent of the second half of the year’s property taxes, he said.

“The intention there was to support city services we value as a church, like clearing roads, things like that, but excluding the school portion of the taxes,” Freeman said. “Taking some of the money we didn’t pay in taxes, we donated it to the Waldorf School, which is right down the street. We support education, but not necessarily the state’s education. Even though we’re seeking (tax-exempt status) that doesn’t mean we’re not going to contribute to the community.”

Freeman said he and other like-minded individuals co-founded the Shire Free Church in 2010, which has ministers in other parts of New Hampshire and outside the state also.

“You have to have some sort of corporate status in order to do things like give people community service hours, or own property,” he said. “So, you can form a church, and set a mission statement. But if you want to interact with the state, you have to have a creature of the state, so we created this corporation, the Shire Free Church Monadnock.”

In their application, Freeman and Perry stated their general purpose for the application as “serving the community through positive action for (religious) purposes.”

Mayor Kendall W. Lane said Saturday he’s not concerned about the group’s application.

“Every organization and individual has a legal right to apply for tax exempt status,” he said. “Whether they meet the criteria or not is another question. I can’t say whether they do or don’t meet the criteria, but it’s a difficult hurdle to get over to meet that criteria. It’s not something that’s automatic, or easy to get.”

The church’s website,, identifies additional parsonages in Fitzwilliam, Manchester and Tilton.

The website also says that “the only requirements to visit or join the Shire Free Church are that you are of peace and do not advocate the use of force to achieve social or political goals.”

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