ADF filed a lawsuit against the City of Mission, Kansas, after the City instituted a “driveway tax” and applied it to churches and other non-profits. The “driveway tax” charges property owners within the City of Mission an amount that is calculated based on the number of trips in and out of their driveways. As bizarre as it sounds, churches are taxed for 5.8 trips per week per seat in their sanctuaries. The people of Mission, Kansas, therefore, are paying a tax every time they go to church.
The City of Mission calls this charge a “Transportation Utility Fee,” and the monies raised are ostensibly earmarked to repair the City’s streets. But this is not a “fee” at all. Rather, the charge is a property tax in disguise. And this new and unique property tax conflicts directly with the Kansas state law that exempts churches, non-profits and charities from property taxes. The City of Mission cannot institute a new property tax on churches and non-profits when the State has already declared these organizations exempt from property taxes.
ADF is representing the First Baptist Church of Mission and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. These churches have stepped forward to protect the tax exemption for churches and other non-profits and charities.
Churches are exempt from taxes for good reason. First, they provide essential services to the poor and disadvantaged in the community. If they did not provide these services, the government would be left to provide them. Second, churches are active in shaping virtuous citizens who contribute positively and help maintain a healthy society. Without the work of the churches, the government is unable to benefit from this intangible, but important spiritual work that churches perform. The government should view churches as an essential partner in society and not tax them, thereby removing funds from them that can be better used in fulfilling the religious mission of the church.
The City of Mission should not attempt an “end-run” around the property tax exemption for churches that exists for very important reasons. We’ll keep you updated on the progress of this case as it progresses.
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