Ministers of three New Hampshire churches have filed tax exemption appeals with the Cheshire and Grafton superior courts. Peaceful Assembly Church, Shire Free Church: Monadnock, and Church of the Sword were each denied tax exemptions for their properties. Peaceful Assembly sought an exemption for their church building, while the other two sought exemptions for parsonages.
Brandon Ross, the attorney for Peaceful Assembly Church, was surprised by the town’s decision to deny exemption for their church building in Grafton, pointing out, “Peaceful Assembly Church has been around for several years. Seems plain as day they’re entitled to the tax exemption.” According to the filing by Ross in Grafton superior court, “the Grafton Selectmen argued that Peaceful Assembly did not ‘do enough’ for the community to earn a tax exemption (perhaps incorrectly believing that [tax exemption is] a quid-pro-quo arrangement).”
The filing adds, “the Town’s tax assessing agent, Avitar, basically recommended that the exemption be denied because they weren’t an IRS recognized church.” Of course, there is no requirement that a church apply for IRS recognition within NH statutes, nor should there be. Churches do not need government approval to exist and to be tax-exempt.
The ministers of the Shire Free Church: Monadnock argue in their appeal filed in Cheshire superior court that Keene tax assessor Mary Ann Robator engaged in viewpoint discrimination when she said, “When you refer to activists, I think that flies in the face of your church status.” Mark Edge, Shire Free Church minister says their church meets all the legal requirements and that, “The Keene government’s denial of our application is nothing but religious discrimination.”
Shire Free Church: Monadnock ministers filed their appeal without the assistance of an attorney. Their six-page filing cites multiple constitutional provisions as well as the New Hampshire statute that authorizes municipalities to accept “voluntary payments.” The church encourages the city to accept its voluntary contributions (approximately 45% of each tax bill at this time) in lieu of property taxes, rather than continuing to pour taxpayer dollars into costly attorneys’ fees in a fight to crush religious freedom.
While the churches are independently organized, Peaceful Assembly Church and Shire Free Church: Monadnock share similar missions of fostering peace. The Peaceful Assembly Church associates with Christianity, but welcomes all who believe in peace and forgiveness. Shire Free Church is an interfaith peace ministry, open to all who are of peace and who have signed the Shire Society Declaration.
Church of the Sword, whose mission is different from the other churches, filed their appeal via attorney Daniel Hynes in Cheshire superior court regarding the town’s denial of their parsonage in Westmoreland. The church self-describes as interfaith and their website states, “We believe in studying and applying the martial path in the judicial and legislative arenas, as well as in self defense.” Church of the Sword minister Kevin Bloom says they weren’t even sent proper notice of denial, “To this date, we have not received a letter of denial that the Town of Westmoreland claims was mailed on August 26th. The only reason we learned about it at all is due to our attorney’s diligence.”
Stay tuned to FreeKeene.com for the latest on these attacks on religious freedom.
More information about each church can be found on their respective websites: