Earlier this year, Arizona legislators introduced a bill that would allow churches to claim a property tax exemption on buildings they rent rather than just own. A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last year, but there’s no telling if the same thing will happen under new Governor Doug Ducey.
House Bill 2128, which was passed by the House in February and passed by the Senate this week, already exempts property “owned by an educational, religious or charitable organization… from taxation.”
However, if a church rents space from, say, a public school, they can now claim an exemption on it, too. That rule would not apply to secular non-profit groups that rent the same space.
It’s a gift to churches that rent out space because they can’t afford their own buildings yet. (One blogger event referred to the bill as the “Pastor Steven Anderson Tax Break.”)
If churches can get the break, though, so should everyone else in the same position. Since it doesn’t, it’s possible this is a constitutional violation.
The bill, which is now in the governor’s hands, would cost the state up to $2.1 million in 2017. It’s just a bad idea all around.
But that won’t stop Republicans from trying to justify it any way possible:
Republican Senator John Kavanagh, also in favor of the bill, argued that this bill actually preserves the separation of church and state.
“The whole reason why we don’t tax churches is that we want to maintain separation between our churches and our states,” Kavanagh said. “We don’t want churches involved in court litigation and tax assessors trying to figure out how much a church is worth. That’s what destroys the separation of church and state.”
Yes, the bill that gives churches another leg up preserves the wall of separation. #GOPLogic
Maybe the Satanic Temple will rent out space at an Arizona strip mall…