Top Massachusetts court weighs arguments on taxation of property at Catholic shrine
April 05, 2016
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts heard oral arguments on April 5 in a case involving a town's move to tax the property of a Catholic shrine.
The city of Attleboro, Massachusetts, ruled that portions of the La Salette Shrine are not tax-exempt, because they are not used for religious purposes. The extensive acreage of the shrine, the gift shop, and the cafeteria are taxable, the assessor ruled. The shrine has subsequently paid nearly $100,000 in real-estate taxes, but filed suit to recover the funds.
The Massachusetts Council of Churches, which supports the shrine's plea for exempt status, argues that public officials "cannot divide religious spaces from non-religious spaces within a church-owned property." Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Boston Globe, wrote:
More is at stake in this dispute than a local Catholic shrine or Attleboro's budget. The much deeper issue is this: Do religious organizations decide for themselves what they require for their devotional and educational missions, or do municipal tax authorities decide for them?
- La Salette Shrine tax case coming before SJC (Boston Globe)
- Houses of worship are far more than pews and prayerbooks (Boston Globe)