Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anchorage Municipal Officials Scrutinizing Property Tax Exemptions Allowed For 18 Properties Belonging To Anchorage Baptist Temple

Update July 16th: The Anchorage Assessor has issued a ruling on Anchorage Baptists Temple's property taxes; see updated post HERE.

Anchorage municipal officials are re-visiting property tax exemptions allowed for 18 different properties belonging to Anchorage Baptist Temple after being tipped off by a post about Allen Prevo's divorce case published by Bent Alaska back on August 29th, 2011. The Anchorage Daily News has published a lengthy and complex story with numerous twists and turns; it includes links to three PDF documents offering additional background. I only intend to summarize the highlights in this post.

How The Story Went Mainstream: Although Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner sealed the documents on the Allen Prevo divorce case on August 29th, LGBT activist Melissa Green obtained some of the court documents and wrote about them on Bent Alaska. Several people subsequently sent copies of the blog post to state assessor Steve Van Sant, who in turn called Anchorage Municipal Assessor Marty McGee. McGee said he saw it and had begun an inquiry.

Applicable Properties: Listed in this visual aid. They include the following:

-- The Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT) complex, which includes Anchorage Christian Schools (ACS)
-- Preschool and Bus Barn
-- Christian broadcasting station & espresso stand (partial exemption)
-- Christian broadcasting tower
-- Ten pastoral residences, nine of which are currently occupied
-- Four residences housing ACS teachers

Three of them, ABT, the preschool, and Pastor Prevo's residence, have never been taxed, which is in keeping with the more traditional practice of limiting exemptions to church facilities and the chief pastor's residence. One pastoral residence has been exempt since at least 1990. But notice how eight different residences became exempt starting 2006. This coincides with the passage of HB334, sponsored by former State Senator Ben Stevens and current Rep. Jay Ramras that same year at the request of ABT. The bill, signed into law by then-Gov. Frank Murkowski, broadened the scope of the exemption to include religious school teachers and ordained ministers who run ministries. The definition of "minister" and "ministry" is a possible bone of contention, but ABT defines a minister as someone who has a spiritual devotion and prayer with a particular group when they meet every Sunday. ABT contends that Allen Prevo met the church's definition.

How It Works: The properties qualify for the exemption because ABT retains ownership of them; they allow pastors and teachers to move into the residences. Additionally, senior pastors are allowed to build equity in their church-owned houses through payroll deductions, but even though they build equity, ownership of the property does not change.

Pastor Jerry Prevo's Reaction: He and Larry Linegar of the Board of Deacons believe the church has acted properly, but if the city reaches a different conclusion, the church will either change the program or pay the taxes.

Timing Of Story: Even though Bent Alaska first published this information back in August, it seems odd that it's only now that it's broken into the mainstream. This generates suspicion that the release was timed to make it more difficult for Pastor Prevo to take a public position in opposition to the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative to be on the April 3rd ballot. Whoever decided to go public may have wanted Prevo tied down by a distraction so he couldn't wage a credible campaign against the gay initiative. Pastor Prevo took a public position against Ordinance #64 in 2009, which mobilized much of the community against it while outraging pro-gay activists, progressives, and atheists; Prevo has been subjected to constant vilification from the lefties ever since.

Reaction: As expected, this story has provided an excuse for anti-Christian bigots to come slithering out of their holes and spew their venom in the ADN comments. I know of no other church in Anchorage which enjoys so many property tax deductions, and this will exacerbate the growing anti-Christian bigotry in this community. I would not be surprised if the deductions are ultimately ended for all properties except the church, the preschool, and Pastor Prevo's residence, although it might be in stages.

And in the final analysis, that's the way it should be.


  1. How can you talk about anti-Christian bigotry on the one hand, while also referring to "faggots" in an adjacent article about Andrew Sullivan? Seems like you have your own form of bigotry, but that's ok if it's about gay people, not Christians. I can think of some gay conservative people I know who would be highly insulted to read your blog.
    Prevo and ABT doesn't define Christianity, and opposing tax breaks for churches doesn't even make anybody "anti-Christian."
    Flat taxes without exemptions are a good fair way to treat everyone without any bigotry involved. I like the structure of your blog, but you could tone down your own bigotry a little, and thus avoid your obvious hypocrisy.

    1. Even before I read your comment on January 26th, I independently reached the same conclusion. On January 19th or 20th, I removed the term "faggot" from the Andrew Sullivan post and replaced it with "homosexual", since it had fulfilled its purpose.

      There were two reasons why I originally used the term "faggot", aside from the fact that Sullivan pissed me off:

      (1). I wanted to show the anti-Prevo bigots what REAL bigotry looked like.

      (2). I wanted to "spank" Sullivan hard for continuing to question the maternity of Trig Palin.

      I am much more offended by Sullivan being a Trig-truther than by his sexual orientation.

      Appreciate the feedback, in particular the remark about the structure of this blog. I take pride in organizing my posts as logically as possible.