Church of the Isaiah 58 Project of Arizona v. La Paz County

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Description:  Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit against La Paz County, Ariz. in March 2011 for hitting a rural Arizona church with a $50,000 tax bill that the state agrees the church does not owe. The bill, which ultimately reached $68,000, nearly resulted in a tax lien on the church’s property which could have resulted in foreclosure and an end to the church’s ministry, including its outreach to the needy—a program praised by the Quartzsite mayor and police chief. The church raised the money to pay the bill while litigation continues.

Ariz. church threatened with unjust foreclosure raises $68,000 to keep doors open

Church ministry to homeless uninterrupted, lawsuit against illegal tax bill can continue
Friday, June 20, 2014

Attorney sound bite (Erik Stanley)  |  Video SOTs and B-roll

QUARTZSITE, Ariz. — A small Arizona church that helps the homeless will now be able to remain open after receiving more than $68,000 in donations to cover an illegal tax bill it was required to pay by June 15 to avoid foreclosure. La Paz County required the church to pay the tax even though both state law and the Arizona Department of Revenue say the church isn’t liable.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Church of the Isaiah 58 Project of Arizona in a lawsuit over the taxes, but because state courts have been unwilling to defer payment of the back-taxes until the completion of litigation, the congregation faced foreclosure. Supporters of the church, which operates on a shoestring budget of only $50,000 per year, contributed enough to pay the tax bill, allowing the church to stay open and continue its lawsuit.

“After an outpouring of support from Christians across the country, this church won’t have to shut its doors and discontinue its crucial ministry,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “Now we can move forward and challenge the unjust actions of one county official who has illegally impeded the church’s efforts to help the least fortunate in a struggling community.”

Under state law, the church qualified for an exemption from property taxes and filed the appropriate paperwork with the La Paz County property assessor. The assessor sat on the paperwork for three years before granting a tax exemption and then only granted it for the years 2009 and later, leaving the church with back taxes for 2007-2008 that it should not owe.

A September 2013 decision from the Arizona Court of Appeals in Church of the Isaiah 58 Project of Arizona v. La Paz County upheld an earlier Tax Court ruling that said the church had to pay the tax bill before challenging it as illegal. ADF attorneys have argued, however, that state law does not require the church to do so when it is challenging an illegally assessed tax so high that the congregation can’t pay the bill and ask for a refund later.

The Arizona Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal, leaving the church with no choice but to raise enough money to pay the illegal tax bill to stay open, continue its lawsuit, and then seek a refund of the bill if it prevails.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Additional resources: Church of the Isaiah 58 Project of Arizona v. La Paz County

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Previous news releases:

  • 2014-05-29: Ariz. county forcing closure of church that helps homeless
  • 2013-10-10: Ariz. church appeals to state’s high court over $50K tax bill
  • 2012-11-26: Rendering unto Caesar?
  • 2011-03-17: ADF files suit to protect Ariz. church from foreclosure based on $50K illegal tax bill
  • 2010-11-10:  Bureaucratic error results in $50K tax bill, possible foreclosure on rural Ariz. church

Video news release (2011):

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