Calif. City Sued for Trying to Illegally Tax Church’s Property

(SM Chavey, Liberty Headlines) A Baptist church in California is fighting the city of San Rafael for allegedly taxing it unjustly on its property, the Pacific Justice Institute said.

The Institute, which specializes in the defense of religious liberty, is suing San Rafael on behalf of Valley Baptist Church.

The Pacific Justice Institute claims the city’s tax is unconstitutional when applied to a church.

“The state constitution makes it very clear that such taxation must be based upon appraisal not based upon square footage and it also makes it clear that property taxes cannot be levied against religious institutions like this church…it’s very clear,” Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus said in a statement. “So we at the Pacific Justice Institute are committed to defending this church as far and long as we need to make sure religious institutions throughout the state of California do not get so treated as they have been treated by the city of San Rafael.”

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The issue dates back to 2010, when San Rafael voters enacted the Special Tax via referendum by a two-thirds vote.  The city’s municipal code allows the city to tax non-residential structures within city limits at a rate of up to 14 cents per square, 2 cents more than the current rate of 12 cents per square foot the city currently taxes structures.

The problem came to light when Valley Baptist Church received a $13,000 bill for unpaid taxes, allegedly owed pursuant to the special tax, Pacific Justice Institute said.

However, the church was supposed to be exempt from this type of rule, the Institute said. In California law, all taxes on real property are required to be ad valorem, meaning they must be levied in proportion to the property value of the building, which is done by assessment or appraisal.

In California, real property used for religious purposes is exempt from ad valorem taxation, according to the California Constitution.

The Pacific Justice Institute discovered this rule and used it to claim that Valley Baptist Church does not owe any money to the city — much less $13,000.

The church paid the bill as a condition of filing suit, but told the city they would be back to fight it.

The church is now trying to get the money back and to have the tax declared unconstitutional.

“The Special Tax is a de facto property tax because it triggers at duty on the part of owners of non-residential structures to pay the tax,” Dacus said in a written statement. “The California Constitution exempts churches from paying such taxes, pure and simple. Valley Baptist did not owe a penny to the City of San Rafael, and it’s unfortunate that the church has to go to court to win back money that it should never have had to pay to begin with.”

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Churches and some other non-profits have traditionally been granted tax exemptions for the charitable work they bring to the community. Recently, that exemption has come under fire, causing churches like Valley Baptist to push back.

“This concept is being lost in our generation because, sadly, church membership has declined,” Dacus said. “People in government thus unfortunately assume that churches aren’t paying their ‘fair share’ without understanding why they’re tax exempt to begin with.”

It does not appear that San Rafael has released a public statement in response.

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  • Tina Vandeweghe

    This is just not right. If California is having so many problems collecting taxes…..lower them for the regular people there. The cost for those who are not celebrities is outrageous! California is a place that only the very wealthy can live……get taxes from the liberal Celebrities!! Leave the churches and schools ALONE!!

    • Naval Lint

      They probably have laws that protect the Hollyweird crowd from “excessive taxation”. And, with the declaration of Cali as a “sanctuary state” they are going to need a LOT of tax increases to support what will become a 75%+ indigent population! If you live in Cali and are conservative….MOVE AWAY QUICKLY!!!! If you’re a Cali Liberal, please STAY THERE!!!!!

      • Born Again Southern Pride

        Unfortunately, the libs are migrating and are infesting the rest of the left coast.

      • dallasyvonneauldridge

        I would love to leave. Ca has become evil with maggot brown and the perverts, amoral, c**ts of nonholywood. Both male and female are demonized.

      • coconuisse

        Another wall needs to be built………around the state of Mexifornia!

        • Naval Lint

          Nah…we can just have a state-wide round-up. Make it a competition with prizes. It’d be FUN!!!

      • Tina Vandeweghe

        Thank you Naval Lint….I must agree with you.

        • Kol

          The border wall is a humanitarian disaster waiting to happen.

          There is a narrative of lies about the U.S.-Mexico border—that it’s an area of high crime and exploitation. Trump wants us to believe that immigrants are dangerous criminals that put our communities at risk. That’s why he creates stereotypes about Mexicans as drug-slinging rapists who steal our jobs.

          But we’ve seen over and over again that Trump and his cabinet are the real sources of danger. We’ve witnessed attacks on everything from healthcare to education. Immigrants are just one of the many communities who need protection from Trump.

          The border wall and the surge in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a tremendous human cost: families torn apart and children incarcerated in detention centers. ICE agents have even arrested parents waiting for their child’s life-saving surgery and domestic violence survivors in court asking for protection.

          And yet, Trump has designated $1.6 BILLION for border wall development and billions more for ICE agents and detention beds that destroy families.

          He’s misusing tax dollars that could aid victims of natural disasters like Harvey and Maria, or bolster our health care and education systems. On top of that, Trump plans on halting the progress of the Dream Act—which would protect 800,000 young immigrants from deportation—unless Democrats sign off on the border wall. Yes, you read that right: Trump wants to use immigrant youth as a bargaining chip in his horrific plan.

          The border wall goes against our collective values. Immigrants fleeing violence and looking for a better life are human beings who need protection and relief. They are not pests to be contained with a wall.

          Will you join me in demanding Congress oppose Trump’s violent immigration policy? Click link above!!!

          —Jessica, Xoai, and the People’s Action team

  • coconuisse

    This kind of makes sense. After all, California is a godless sanctuary state, is it not? If they can’t accept the existence of God, how could they be expected to accept the existence of a “non-residential” building devoted to His worship? They don’t accept the laws of the federal government, how could they be expected to follow the laws of their own “state”?

    • Louie Rey

      You know, I posted my comment right above you before I read yours and you know what? You have a VERY valid point. Considering what’s happening in California right now do you think that maybe even He has had enough of the mindless, pagan like attitudes of the people out there?

    • dallasyvonneauldridge

      As a native Californian at 71 years old. I would like to start a class action law suit against Jerry Maggot Brown for not only violating my civil rights. But placing an increased risk of bodily harm and or death to ALL LAWFUL CALIFORNIANS. He and HIS CROOKED LEGISLATURE are expecting you and me to pick up the tab to feed, house, clothe, the LAWBREAKERS. If you can help me answer with a name for an attorney please.

  • Front Sight

    Moving from this cesspool sounds good; however, some of us are too old to relocate and start over. Before it takes effect, buy lots of ammunition for your guns. Become a squirrel and store winter supplies. Gas up your generator and hunker down for the revolution.

  • David Ciambrone

    Churches SHOULD be taxed! Let them pay their fair share. This is one way to pay the toll for all the illegals that are and will be there.

    • Leibe ist reise

      California is a lost cause, the churches should move out of the state and ‘let the dead bury the dead’.

    • Bob19006

      The power to tax a church is the power to suppress or shut down the church and is thus contrary to the US Constitution.

      • ipsd48

        First they tax GOD…………….then they ban Him

        • Larry Huff

          Your evil god is not real, as you will soon find out.

      • Larry Huff

        Was it contrary to the constitution when Churches were taxed for 200 years? You are just as dumb as a stump, aren’t you?

        • Bob19006

          Thomas Jefferson said that churches should not be taxed. What 200 years are you talking about? The problem today is that school property taxes in many districts have reached a rate of 1.5% of the property value. Every church member pays their school property tax on the house they live and they should not have to also pay additional school tax just because they belong to a church. I’d bet that at least 1/4 of churches in the USA could not afford to pay and would have to shut down if they had to pay the full school property tax on the church building. In some places in the USA non-profit hospitals and colleges are also exempt from paying real estate tax. They have CEOs that are paid at least $500,000 a year. Well over half of pastors in the US earn less than $50,000 a year, many are part time earning 10, 15, 20,000 a year as the churches can’t afford a full time pastor.

    • Daniel Gray

      Sorry loser, the US Constitution says you are a fool. And a lefty besides as only fools and leftys use the term “fair share” when they know what they are saying is utter BS. So which one are you?

      The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of
      the land.

      • ipsd48

        As the top 10% ALREADY pay 90% of ALL income taxes seems to me the one’s who should be paying THEIR ‘fair share’ is the other 90%

        • Larry Huff


          • ipsd48

            I hope they pay you well to live under a bridge and attack people when they cross over

          • Larry Huff

            I retired from my UNION job at 53 with a great pension and free health care for life. Yes, I am paid well. YOU will work till you drop.

          • Daniel Gray

            You are a MAJOR liar.

            I also retired from a UAW backed job of UAW Region 2. My healthcare is NOT free, I pay for part of it. You DO NOT have a great pension as you claim. The average retirement check for a union worker is about 3000.00 a month BEFORE taxes which is about 2200. a month after taxes and need I remind you that most of the Union retirees have not had a COLA (cost of living increase) for over 10 years? And I noticed you didnt mention what union you claimed to have retired as a member. The ONLY people who do that are the ones who are lying through their teeth and leftys

          • Larry Huff

            You don’t know what I have, you were NOT a UNION member or you would be a Democrat. You are a liar.

          • Daniel Gray

            And you have just proved you are a lying POS as EVERY Union member is NOT a Democrat, In fact the largest union in the US, the UAW; is 47% REPUBLICAN according to the UAW International HQ in Michigan.

            You have just proved that everything you have said is an utter lie

          • Larry Huff

            Like we liberals pay for your “crazy check”?

          • Daniel Gray

            Sorry but the IRS and the US Treasury say this is FACT

          • Larry Huff

            No, they don’t. You are a liar.

          • Daniel Gray
          • Larry Huff

            Nope, none of those sites confirm your lie.

          • Daniel Gray

            Yep EVERY ONE of these sites CONFIRM you are a lying idiot

          • Larry Huff

            No, they don’t.

          • Daniel Gray

            Sure they do, you are just ticked off that now everyone knows what a lying left wing loser you are.

          • Larry Huff

            No, you didn’t scumbag

          • Daniel Gray

            Yea I did and your reply shows how upset you are and being shown that rocks in your front yard are smarter then you are.

  • Irredeemably Deplorable

    I’m a Christian and I believe it is reprehensible for churches to be exempt from taxes. Quite frankly, I believe the bible made it clear that taxes should be paid by Christian organizations consistent with taxes paid by any organization.

    I also think it is a scam for any church to wish to avoid paying taxes.

    • harold

      Please quote where the Bible states that churches should taxed?

      • Irredeemably Deplorable

        I could point you to the bible. However, there is already a commentary on it I will share here.

        • Bob19006

          I see repeated reference that Christians should pay taxes like everyone else, nothing about taxing buildings used primarily for religious services or taxing a church’s income. The defining document is the US Constitution that says to the maximum extent possible, government should keep its greedy hands off of churches. The power to tax a church is the power to suppress or shut down the church and is thus contrary to the US Constitution.

          • Irredeemably Deplorable

            Yeah, special interests are always trying to find a way to avoid paying like normal, citizens. There should be no exemption for anyone, religious or otherwise. But I understand your rant.

          • Daniel Gray

            Fine, then change the Constitution. But nobody here need worry about your rants as what you want is NEVER going to happen

          • Irredeemably Deplorable

            I presume you consider yourself a “Christian” with your demeaning attack upon me as a person. Yes, you should be taxed.

          • Daniel Gray

            Nope, never said what my religious beliefs are if any. Just having fun showing how pathetic you are.

          • Irredeemably Deplorable

            You show much more about yourself than you do anyone else, troll

          • Daniel Gray

            whats wrong loser? mad because the US Constitution and the the US Treasury are calling you a liar and your ego cant take it?

          • Irredeemably Deplorable

            You are nothing but a troll. Nothing else to talk about. Good bye

          • Daniel Gray

            Awww whats wrong moron, got your rear handed to you and proved that you cant do what you leftys want under federal law and the US Constitution. So now you run away with your tail between your legs like the coward you
            are. And just to show how stupid you are, you said Good Bye, which means if you even so much as sneeze in my direction on these boards you will have proved yourself a liar as well as a loser.

            And you did this with your own mouth and eyes wide open.

            Not too bright are you braindead?

        • Daniel Gray

          The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land.

          My post overturns yours as mine is quoting the SUPREME law of the land, the US Constitution. Yours is quoting hot air. So it makes no difference what you think.

    • Daniel Gray

      And you are an idiot as well as federal law clearly states you CANNOT tax a religious institute, and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution makes what the city did illegal and unconstitutional. The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause
      2) establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it,
      and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of
      the land. As such NO lower form of Government can violate this.

    • Tina Vandeweghe

      Churches represent God’s home here on earth, God’s home should be taxed? No, no way!

      • Kol

        In many cases they’re run like really nothing more than “businesses”… they SHOULD be taxed!

      • Kol

        For a supposed-to-be “Chhristian” it’s amazing how HATEFUL you act!

  • mari

    The power of the suit is a game changer. It is one of the strategies that the left has used to affect change. That is why we need to get our courts back.

  • MIKE6080

    how can they do that to a place of sanctuary in a sanctuary state, must be your typical progressives

    • Stephine

      It’s only sanctuary for the illegals not the law abiding.

  • Debbie

    Looks like everyone has rights in CA except the people paying for it

  • ajax7

    The right for churches to have non taxable houses of worship was enacted during Thomas Jefferson’s time as president. He looked at this as a great achievement. Churches before that time levied taxes to further religious places. That was exchanged for a tax free property tax for houses of worship. If they owned anything more than the parsonage for other purposes were taxed, Seems the town has elected no nothings for leaders. It is amazing that this country has so many no nothing people in charge if running anything beyond yard work.

  • crh

    What do you expect from a state that has decriminalized the intentional spreading of HIV.

    • dallasyvonneauldridge

      AMEN. It’s always about maggot fagg++brown and his gay ” FRIENDS”

  • WilliamHarrington

    I wonder if Caiifornia will insist on being paid for the real estate taxes due on property which does not exist due to the forest fires raging out of control.

  • Gary Johnson

    when ever I see something so silly and stupid I always know its from california even before I open it

  • I know of no justification for taxing any church no matter the denomination.

  • Jon Blake

    I hate to say it as Christians and unwilling to vote when its apparent that Christianity would be challenged in all sorts of way given rise to this level of intolerant by the Left. Remember this when you sit on the side line next time and refuse to act.

  • The church is sovereign, that means no taxes.

  • Jim Hays

    California…..Truly, The land of “fruits and nuts”!

    • ipsd48

      …………..and vegetables

  • Louie Rey

    Anyone surprised that this is taking place in California? I didn’t think so. I have an idea, if they feel that their actions are just how about they try and tax each and every mosque and temple as well? The Jews would get every A-list, high priced lawyer to fight it and the Muslims would just begin another jihad because that’s what they do.

  • 9400budlang8406

    You can bet that if they get away with this others will try the same thing. Governments have longed to get their hands on the churches money for years. Add that to the current anti christian atmosphere in a large part of America and this will grow like a plague in city governments around the country. Governments are already so addicted to our tax dollars that it takes more and more to give them a fix.

  • retired4ever

    California is run by a bunch of godless politicians, just what do you expect? Did you vote? Who did you vote for?; the godless or god fearing. Obviously the latter are in the minority in California.

    • dallasyvonneauldridge

      Yes we are. 95% of the godless, lawless, demons live in so. Ca. We want to make two states they have their illegals voting 2-3 time we don’t stand a chance. They would have to pay for all our water they steal for their pools an lawns.

  • ipsd48

    So now humanists want to tax God

  • Bonnie Treitler

    california is far worse then sodom and gomorrah ever was good thing God is merciful or they would be but a bad memory. they only ones that aren’t taxed is the actors and the other loser liberals. all other states have tax breaks for places of worship.

  • Bill Thompson

    The state would love to tax the church out of existence. Hence separation of church state. So state can’t do that.

  • Dan Chapman

    Does being a Christian require you to demean, judge and chastise all that do NOT agree with your point of view? The bluster in this section should explain why the churches are not filling up their pews. Get out of the politics that you all claim NOT to spew from the pulpit, which would justify your right to not be taxed. Practice your religion and have enough respect for other Americans, to NOT shove your religion and opinions down our throats. God made us all…..unless you all consider that he made MANY mistakes. A little humility and respect would seem like Christian values to me.

  • coconuisse

    The separation of church and state, a non-Constitutional belief in the first place, is a one-way street. The church is forbidden from doing almost anything whereas the state can do whatever the he// it wants to!