Jerald Finney, BBA, JD
Born Again Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ
Licensed Attorney-University of Texas Law School Graduate
This article is also published at: The Trumpet Newspaper, October – December 2019. Click links in article below and in the Trumpet Article when viewed online to go to the links.
Any church who remains under Christ alone has already been victorious in the eyes of Lord, no matter what any earthly power does to it. We praise the Lord for eternal spiritual victory! We also praise the Lord for victory for an eternal church under Christ in this temporal battleground.
Praise the Lord for such a victory for the Lord’s churches in Minnesota (as opposed to churches which combine with to the state and federal government through incorporation (sole and aggregate), charitable or business trust status, unincorporated association status, Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) or § 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt status, legal status by holding bank accounts or insurance in the name of the church, running incorporated and/or 501(c)(3) or 508 ministries, etc.)!
The local property tax board denied the property tax exemption on the property owned by the Lord Jesus Christ and held in trust by the Pastor/Trustee who had a fiduciary duty to manage the Trust Estate which included the meetinghouse and the land it was on for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true owner of the property. Other property in the Trust Estate includes a bank account, liability insurance, and personal property.
The victory was won after the Trustee of the Trust established by the church filed a petition in Minnesota District Court after the local property tax board in Minnesota denied the property tax exemption on the property. The local board took the position that the church had to “establish” to qualify for the property tax exemption. A church becomes established when it, for example, is granted corporate and/or 501(c)(3) status after application to the state government (incorporation) and/or the federal government ((501(c)(3) status). No church in America is required by man’s law to establish. The state and federal governments invite churches to seek and obtain such status and churches eagerly, against New Testament principle, accept the invitation.[i]
In America, property tax boards in many states have granted property tax exemption on property held in trust for the Lord and used exclusively for church purposes. Sometimes the local tax board balks but relents after reasoning with them. In Indiana, a state which has an agency hearing process (followed by appeal to court if necessary), numerous such properties have been almost routinely been granted the exemption. However, a Trustee in Indiana successfully contested a denial of the property tax exemption through the agency process. See [ii] for a link the complete story in that case.
In Minnesota, there is no agency hearing when a local property tax board denies the exemption. The contest has to be filed in district court which then transfers the case to tax court. Before filing a petition in district court, the Trustee in Minnesota, with Jerald Finney’s[iii] help, talked with the county attorney and provided memorandums explaining why the exemption should be honored. The county attorney and assessor maintained their position that the church had to establish under Minnesota non-profit corporation law and also obtain 501(c)(3) status.
After the case was finally called by the court, motions were filed, and a hearing was held the case was settled in favor of the tax exemption for the Lord’s property. The tax exemption was granted!
The Pastor/Trustee and all the members of the church are to be applauded. They took the position that they were going to continue as church under Christ and Him alone no matter the outcome of the case.
This article is also published at: The Trumpet Newspaper, October – December 2019.
Note. For a link to the written argument filed in court, without identifiers, see [iv] below.
Note. Property tax exemption on property used exclusively by churches is honored by all 50 states. Unlike 501(c)(3) or 508 federal tax exemption, the property tax exemption comes with no strings attached and is to be given all such properties. The property tax exemption actually strengthens the First Amendment religious freedom unlike 501(c)(3) or 508 federal tax exemption which destroy such freedom. The legal Response filed in Minnesota Court explains more about this. See [iv] below.
Note. By establishing the trust relationship, the church—like many churches that the Churches Under Christ and the Biblical Law Center ministries have helped with the matter of church organization under Christ and Christ alone since the 1980’s—continued under the authority of Christ and Christ alone. In other words, the church remained a spiritual entity under Him and not an earthly organization under the state and/or the federal government.
[i] What is an established church?; Who Is the head of an incorporated church?; Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? Does God Care if our Church is Incorporated?; The church incorporation-501(c)(3) control scheme; Federal government control of churches through 501(c)(3) tax exemption; Short Answers to Some Important Questions.
[iii] Finney Moved to Minnesota in March 2016. After completing a grueling reciprocity process, he was licensed to practice law in Minnesota in February, 2017. However, when the Lord called him to move back to Texas in May, 2019 the Minnesota Tax Court had not gotten to the case. The MTC has around 6,000 new property tax cases on its docket each year. Trustee filed the petition in 2016, but the Court did not call the case until after Finney moved back to Texas. At that point, Finney worked with and advised a Minnesota law firm who took over the case. He also drafted the substance of the written motion for the plaintiff/trustee which was used by the firm.