Appeal of Liberty Assembly of GodAnnotate this Case
Petitioner Liberty Assembly of God (Assembly) appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) which upheld a 2008 decision of Respondent City of Concord (City), denying the Assembly's request for a religious use tax exemption. Assembly owns 26.13 acres of land in Concord; approximately twenty acres are in "current use." The undeveloped land is used primarily for agricultural or forestry purposes, although there is a "prayer trail" around its perimeter. From 1994, when Assembly acquired its property, until 2008, the City granted Assembly a religious use tax exemption on all of its property. However, in 2008, the City granted Assembly an exemption on only forty percent of its property, concluding that sixty percent of the property was not used and occupied for religious training or other religious purposes, and was therefore taxable. The City subsequently revised its determination and exempted sixty percent of the property. The City considered the entire second floor of the main building taxable as not being used for religious purposes. Following appeal, the BTLA upheld the City’s apportionment for tax year 2008. Assembly asserted that the BTLA’s ruling was erroneous on three interrelated grounds: (1) the City and the BTLA misinterpreted RSA 72:23, III because it should be read as fully exempting houses of worship from taxation; (2) the City’s inquiries into the religious uses and purposes of each room within the church building unconstitutionally “entangled” the government with religion; and (3) even if the statute and constitution permit parsing taxable from exempt space within a house of worship, all of Assembly's space should be exempt as serving a religious purpose. Having decided that the City’s methodology was not flawed, the Supreme Court deferred to the BTLA’s judgment in determining the weight to be given evidence: "Because Assembly has not demonstrated by a clear preponderance of the evidence that the second-floor restroom was "owned, used and occupied directly for religious training or for other religious purposes," the Court could find error in the BTLA's finding such space taxable.