Dove Feels The Love: Alachua County Tax Man Calls On Florida Church

August 12th, 2010
By Joseph L. Conn
Church Politicking, Religion and politics

Dove World Outreach Center likes being in the news media. The Gainesville, Fla., congregation is infamous for its vicious attacks on Muslims, gay people and others who fail to see things through a narrow fundamentalist Christian lens.

In its latest publicity stunt, church officials have announced plans to burn a Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

But Dove’s pastors may not be as pleased with the story in today’s Gainesville Sun. According to the Florida newspaper, the congregation is going to have to pay taxes on part of its 20-acre property. Pastor Terry Jones has apparently been using church facilities to run a furniture business, and that’s not a tax-exempt religious enterprise.

Alachua County Property Appraiser Ed Crapo visited the site in late March and found that 1,700 square feet had been leased out to Jones’s TS and Company for $1,000 a month. The portion of the property devoted to the business enterprise will be taxed.

The Sun reports, “The [total church] property is valued at more than $1.6 million, but the 1,700-square-foot taxable portion is worth only $135,000, meaning the church’s annual tax bill will be roughly $3,200.”

The property appraiser’s action is good news. If a church is running a business, it ought to pay taxes like everyone else.

Let’s hope the Internal Revenue Service also does its duty and investigates this congregation for its bald-faced partisan politicking. In March, American United filed a complaint with the federal tax agency after the church illegally intervened in the Gainesville mayoral election.

Church officials erected a sign on the church lawn saying, “No Homo Mayor.” They also produced a series of videos attacking openly gay candidate Craig Lowe, which were posted on the church Web site and on YouTube. The messages were clearly campaign intervention, despite federal tax law provisions barring such electioneering by tax-exempt groups. (It didn’t work, by the way; Lowe won anyway.)

The Supreme Court has held that government may extend tax exemption to churches (along with other charitable and educational non-profits), but it doesn’t have to. The government is also free to attach rules and regulations to this valuable benefit. There’s certainly no reason to allow tax-exempt property to be misdirected toward commercial or partisan ends.

Dove World Outreach Center has violated the rules, and the IRS ought to ruffle the church’s feathers.

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