"Most Powerful Pages on the Planet"
FEB 9, 2009
Volume 2 - No. 4
Darwin Campbell, Executive Publisher
A Weekly Publication
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BLACK CHURCHES FIGHT BACK!
THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL
Local ministers claim Fort Worth “tax and take” policy of Black Church Property is a violation of their civil and religious rights
FORT WORTH, TEXAS – The City of Fort Worth, Fort Worth Independent School District, and Tarrant County has adopted a form of public policy, which has given some, within the Black community, a sense of disbelief. The taxing and taking of many black churches in Fort Worth has created a fire storm and some leaders are starting to stand up and speak out against the government practice of unfairly tax on their Churches.
“We have stated and continue to state that we believe that to take our Church’s land is unconstitutional and that the City and school district have crossed the line of human fairness,” says, Dr. Frank Lawson, pastor of the Harmony Missionary Baptist Church, in far-east Fort Worth, who lost a recent judgment to the city and school district on January 22, 2009.
Now Pastors and civil rights leaders will reach out to US Department of Justice to help stop what is believed to be a violation of the churches and members civil and religious rights.
“This in my humble opinion is the social justice issue of the 21st Century,” says the Rev. Kyev Tatum, local minister and former vice president of the Texas NAACP.
“We think it is fundamentally unfair for the City of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Independent School District to “Tax and Take” land owned by poor Black Churches, sell the land to the highest bidder and then give tax breaks and incentives to wealthy businesses and corporations in the name of urban renewal,” Tatum says.
According to an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (12-08-2004), churches that stand their ground and lose, like New Mount Calvary, which has refused to pay since 1989, can be wiped out by the tax bills. In Tarrant County, the tax-delinquency rate for religious organizations is two times the rate for all property owners. Before a last-minute court order, the vacant half of New Mount Calvary's parcel was to be auctioned to pay the taxes. The appraisal district claims the church owes more than $31,000 in delinquent taxes and penalties.
"How can you split our land off when that's the land we've always had?" Franklin asked. "We're not going to abandon our land."
On January 19, 2007, the Tarrant Appraisal District Board of Directors voted unanimously to remove all taxes from the New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. The Appraisal District also admitted it made a mistake when it “inadvertently” withdrew the tax-exemption status of the Church in 1988.
“It was only through the grace of God,” Pastor Franklin said. “There is no time to rejoice, there are many other churches facing the same ‘strong arm’ of government taxation without representation,” says Franklin.
Church advocates have asked the United States Justice Department to intervene on behalf of the Black Churches. New Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, at 5800 Oak Grove Road West in Highland Hills; Harmony Missionary Baptist Church, at 7510 John T White Road in far east Fort Worth; Mount Ephraim Missionary Baptist Church, at 1333 East Evans Avenue in near Southeast Fort Worth; and the Calumet Missionary Baptist Church, at 5301 Calumet Street in Stop Six, are some of the Black Churches, who feel they were targeted with unfairly taxation. Many other Churches are just paying the taxes.
“They bomb and burned our Churches in the 50s and 60s. Now they are taxing and taking our Black Churches in the 21st Century. This kind of bad public policy, in my humble opinion, is unconstitutional, inhumane, and ungodly,” Rev. Tatum said.
Over the past several decades, many churches feel they have been targeted, and unfairly taxed on property that has been dedicated to religious purposes.
According to the same article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, legal analysts say the appraisal district's approach is fraught with problems, some of which could lead to a constitutional challenge. "It's problematic, because there is a risk of discrimination, or different treatment for whatever reason," said Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University Of Texas School Of Law, and an expert on laws pertaining to religion. Some church officials and their attorneys say the religious organizations are under scrutiny because they own land in fast-growing areas with a lot of development pressure. "They seem to resent churches because they are tax-exempt," said the Rev. Carter Foster, pastor of Colleyville Christian. "We often have prime property that would have been commercial property, and on the tax rolls." Pastor Lawson, who’s Church is located at 7510 John T White Road in Fort Worth, and is now sitting in front of a new DR Horton subdivision, continues to resist claims that the Church owes back taxes and is calling on the entire Christian community to support their efforts.
“We believe the Church is sovereign unto God, and that the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Texas Constitution protects us from this attack on our religious liberties,” Lawson said.
“Churches are immune from taxation and not exempt,” Lawson states.
A group of ministers have formed the Tarrant County Faith-Based Coalition to help save Churches from losing their property and to strongly advocate for a change in the Tax Code to immune Churches from taxation in Texas. For more information, contact Dr. Frank Lawson, at 817-446-0412 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Rev. Kyev Tatum, at 817-966-7625 (email@example.com).