Tennessee Court Allows Taxation Of Church Property

A Tennessee appeals court ruled that the government may tax part of a Nashville mega-church’s family life center. 

In its March 21 ruling in Christ Pentecostal Center v. Tennessee State Board of Equalization, the Tennessee Court of Appeals said the church’s café/bookstore should not receive property tax exemption because it is not used for religious purposes. The court also said the church’s fitness cen­ter/gym should receive an exemption from 50 percent of the tax that would be owed on the property because the facility is only available for public use by those who pay fees.

Pastor Dan Scott said he brought suit over the tax bill because he wanted to test the boundaries of church-state separation.

“We got our hand slapped after the fact, not before the fact, because there was no way to determine where that line was – if you cross it, you’re seen as a commercial enterprise,” Scott told the Nashville City Paper.

Katherine Flake, who teaches American religion at Vander­bilt University Divinity School, said the ruling was correct.

“Ultimately it comes down to just because you’re religious, it doesn’t make everything you do religious,” she told the City Paper.

Christ Church is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Religious Right legal group founded by radio and TV preachers.