Exploring Pagans and their relationship with that earthiest of earth symbols, money.
Maetreum of Cybele wins on appeal
PALENVILLE, NEW YORK -- The Maetreum of Cybele got to the end of its seven-year property-tax fight with the Town of Catskill today, when a three-judge panel of Appellate Court judges ruled that they do, indeed, deserve the same tax exemptions that other churches do. While the town still has one more chance to appeal at the state's highest court, Reverend Cathryn Platine feels that the decision's wording makes that unlikely. A portion provided by Platine reads as follows:
The testimony established that the Cybeline Revival stresses communal living among its adherents, as well as providing hospitality and charity to those in need, and the members consider this property the home of their faith (see Matter of Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Inc. v Assessor of City of Auburn, 104 AD3d 1294, 1297 , lv granted ___ NY3d ___ [Oct. 22, 2013]). They also conduct religious and charitable activities throughout the property on a regular basis. Accordingly, petitioner has satisfied the legal requirements in order to receive a real property tax exemption for 2009, 2010 and 2011 (see Matter of Yeshivath Shearith Hapletah v Assessor of Town of Fallsburg, 79 NY2d 244, 252 ; Matter of Eternal Flame of Hope Ministries, Inc. v King, 76 AD3d 775, 778 , affd 16 NY3d 778 ; Sephardic Congregation of S. Monsey v Town of Ramapo, 47 AD3d 915, 916-918 ).
Lahtinen, J.P., Spain and Egan Jr., JJ., concur.
ORDERED that the order is reversed, on the law, with costs, petitions granted, and determinations of the Board of Assessment Review for the Town of Catskill denying petitioner's applications for real property tax exemptions for 2009, 2010 and 2011 annulled.
"This was a huge step for minority religions and Paganism in particular," Platine said when reached by phone, "to be treated like any other church, that was the essence of the decision."
While the order was explicitly "reversed . . . with costs," Platine wasn't immediately sure what that would mean for the Maetreum of Cybele. The church spent nearly $50,000 defending its right to a property tax exemption, which the town maintained was not appropriate, likening the property to a private residence with frequent guests rather than a place of worship. However, in legal parlance "costs" sometimes refers only to money paid to the court, such as filing fees, and not include attorney bills.
"We just applied for a low-power FM radio license, and if we got a significant amount of that money back, we'd be able to purchase all of the equipment for a community radio station," Platine said. Money beyond that would "take us all the way off the grid," which make the radio station "more valuable to the community, because it would continue broadcasting when the power was out." Palenville was directly in the path of Hurricane Irene as she ripped through parts of New York State completely unfamiliar with that kind of storm.
A food pantry for the community would also be on the list of what to do with any money received.
More important to Platine, though, is that "we can just go back to our religious work." The Maetreum of Cybele is, as the justices noted in their deliberations, a monastic order devoted to bringing the worship of Cybele back into the mainstream. The reverend said that the protracted fight served a "larger purpose. If they were trying to erase us, they did exactly the opposite. Cybele is back in Neopaganism now, as well as ancient paganism. It will be hard to write about Paganism now, and not include us. That was part of the larger purpose."
Presumably town officials will now be free to comment, as their is no longer ongoing litigation, but word of this decision did not reach this reporter until after Catskill's town offices had closed for the day.
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