Monday, January 23, 2012

Dishonesty from John Helmberger and Minn. "Family" Council

Minnesota "Family" Council, fighting for marriage inequality, sent out an email titled Clear and Present Threat.
In addition to the usual mindless hyperbole, Helmberger makes the following claim:
One more time:
These are the (condensed) undisputed1 facts:
  1. The facility isn't a "Christian Retreat House." Nor, for that matter, is it a "wedding ministry" as ADF tried (and failed) to describe it. It is an off-site pavilion that advertised as a wedding venue.
  2. The "Pavilion" is owned by the church but is not on church grounds.
  3. The facility was used primarily for church programming but was made available for private weddings, for a fee, based solely on availability.
  4. The facility advertised itself as a wedding venue without disclosing any views on marriage.
  5. In 1989, the church applied for a not-for-profit real estate tax exemption.
  6. The exemption was actually opposed  by the township on the grounds that the applicant was a religious organization. At a public hearing, in September of 1989, the church represented that the facility would be available for public use without reservation.
  7. Thereafter, the tax exemption was approved explicitly conditioned on "equal access" and compliance with applicable non-discrimination laws.
  8. In 2007, the church would not permit a lesbian couple to use the facility for a commitment ceremony.
The administrative law judge found that the facility violated the law against discrimination by a public accommodation when they refused to allow a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony. The fact that the facility was owned by a church is irrelevant     it was still a public accommodation. The result is that they correctly lost their real estate tax exemption.

The facility has since been designated a religious facility and is no longer a public accommodation. The church is using the facility for programming and now enjoys the renewed real estate tax exemption.

Oh      and New Jersey is not (yet) a marriage equality state.

                 
1 Both parties agreed to submit the matter to summary decision which meant that there were no material facts in dispute.

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