Monday, July 16, 2012

Anchorage Baptist Temple Found Liable For $61,286 In Back Property Taxes; Pastor Jerry Prevo Says Its Critics Are Playing Politics

On July 15th, 2012, the Anchorage Daily News published a detailed story reporting that the Municipality of Anchorage found that Anchorage Baptist Temple improperly claimed tax-free status for the homes of two of its ministers and now owes the city $61,286 in back taxes. On July 16th, KTVA Channel 11 reported that ABT Pastor Jerry Prevo fired back, accusing his critics of playing politics, but adding that if their review of the ruling indicates they're not in compliance, they'll gladly pay the back taxes without further delay.

Specifically, municipal assessor Marty McGee disallowed the deductions for the residences of Rev. Allen Prevo, the church's lighting technician, and Rev. Tom Cobaugh, its education minister. According to this ADN graphic, Prevo's residence has been exempt since 2005, and Cobaugh's residence since 2006. McGee said the church wrongly asserted it was the sole owner of the properties, a requirement under state law for tax-exempt status. McGee concluded that both Allen Prevo and Tom Cobaugh were accumulating equity in their homes, although back in January 2012, ABT attorney Kevin Clarkson claimed that the arrangements were not real property sales because the deeds remained in the church's name and the pastors didn't get all the benefits and liabilities of home ownership. Clarkson described it at the time as a form of "bonus compensation".

In a separate story, ADN now reports that Marty McGee has received a sworn statement from Anchorage Baptist Temple denying that it was selling the Rev. Jerry Prevo his parsonage, and so there won't be any additional back taxes assessed against his residence. McGee's final decision on July 16th shaved off one of the years from which he sought back taxes, reducing the bill by $7,988. McGee also said the statute of limitations doesn't allow him to collect more than six years in back taxes, based upon the January 2012 start date of the investigation. McGee will not attempt to collect interest or penalties because the taxes were never billed and therefore weren't technically delinquent; he found no evidence that the church or any of its officials committed tax fraud, only that they misinterpreted the law. The city's chief financial officer, Lucinda Mahoney, told KTVA that ABT has been completely cooperative with her investigation. Even though the assessment is final, Pastor Prevo can still appeal the tax bill or the revocation of the exemption

Jerry Prevo fired back. He told KTVA "We went out and hired two different attorney firms to review our tax situation. They both came back and said we were in compliance. Now we've read through the paper that the city has said that we're not in compliance. And we're eager to review the situation. If we're not in compliance, we'll gladly pay taxes."

Pastor Prevo also thinks much of it is politics. He believes much of the opposition to him and his church is motivated by his public stand against Proposition 5, which would have made gays a protected class. Prevo opposed a similar measure in 2009; pastors and churches can legally engage in issue advocacy from the pulpit without jeopardizing the religious tax exemption. Prevo also took the Anchorage Daily News to task, saying that it has probably damaged the state of Alaska more than any other one organization by attacking prominent people unjustly. And ADN editor Patrick Dougherty played right into Prevo's hands by sending KTVA a statement in which he accused Allen Prevo of trying to conceal the ownership of a tax-exempt home. This compromises ADN's impartiality in reporting this story.

Melissa Green, the LGBT activist who blew the whistle on the story in the first place, posts her reaction on BentAlaska.

There are 320 comments appended to the original ADN story, and it's obvious free reign has been given to the trolls and retards. Rarely have I seen such an outpouring of anti-Christian bigotry. There were also at least three anti-Mormon comments included, possibly in reference to the thinly-disguised hatchet job against the LDS Church by Bloomberg Businessweek. But while many critics pan Prevo and ABT for their activism against Proposition 5, they give a free pass to those churches who openly supported Prop 5. And none of them have expressed concern about how Father Michael Oleksa tried to sell his pulpit to the anti-Pebble Mine forces in September 2011.

Pastor Prevo would be smart to go ahead and pay the outstanding balance. The municipality has compromised with him; they're not assessing any interest or penalties. Thus a compromise by Prevo might be in order. In the long run, the religious tax exemption ought to be simplified and re-defined to apply only to a church's religious sanctuary, a school (if they have one), and the chief pastor's residence.

2 comments:

  1. Frank Zappa made the statement and I agree "TAX THE FUCK OF ALL CHURCHES."And I would like to add,MAKE IT RETROACTIVE 200 YEARS.

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  2. I’m not a Christian, but I offer the following biblical insights to “Jerry’s Kids”:

    (1) Jesus (upon him be Peace) reserved his harshest denunciations for hypocrites—actually, he cursed them

    (2) He warned that dismissing the plight of the needy constituted failure to keep one’s duty to him and to God (Matt 25:41-46)

    (3) The only time he was ever provoked to violence was against those who used God’s House for their own financial gain

    (4) Not even the most “liberal” exegesis of John 21:15-17 would allow a reasonable person to conclude that Jesus (upon him be Peace) EVER said, “Jerry, fleece my sheep”

    Conclusion: If the oligarchs of Anchorage Baptist Temple ever see a long-haired, bearded man of middle-eastern appearance and through-and-through wounds to his extremities approaching their compound carrying a bullwhip, I suggest they don their running shoes…

    Al-Hajj F H Minshall

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