First Baptist in Mission, Kan.

Christians who attend worship services in a suburb of Kansas City will have to ante up for new thousand-dollar city “fees” that are being assessed against their churches based on the number of seats in their sanctuaries.

That’s if the scheme announced recently by officials in Mission, Kan., survives a court challenge that has been filed by the Alliance Defense Fund.

“No one should be taxing church attendance, but that’s what this tax does: It punishes churches based on their attendance,” said Erik Stanley, a senior legal counsel for the organization.

“Cleverly disguising a tax as a fee is just another way to penalize churches and other nonprofit organizations and charities by subverting their tax exemptions so the government can collect more money,” he said. “This driveway tax is simply outrageous. Will we soon be seeing a ‘sidewalk tax’ based on the number of people who walk to church?”

It was in August when the city council in Mission created Ordinance 1332 for a “Transportation Utility Fee.” The law requiress that owners of all property within city limits with improvements such as buildings or landscaping pay a fee, “which functions as an additional property tax.”

According to ADF, the ordinance itself specifies that owners of properties that are tax exempt under state law, such as churches, charities and nonprofit ministries, still must pay.

For churches, the tax is based on an assumption about the number of vehicle trips.

“Single family homes are assessed a fixed rate of $72 per year while 5.8 total weekly vehicle trips are estimated per worship facility seat to calculate the tax amount for churches,” ADF said.

Its lawsuit, filed Monday in district court in Johnson County, is on behalf of First Baptist Church of Mission and the Archdiocese of Kansas City.

St. Pius Catholic Church

The Baptist church, billed nearly $1,000, and the Catholic diocese, billed some $1,700, agreed to take the lead in the battle over the new assessments on behalf of the town’s churches.

City officials declined to respond to a WND request for comment.

But ADF said the “driveway tax” is the same as other assessments that were imposed in Idaho and Florida but struck down by the supreme courts in those states.

“The government should not attempt to disguise taxes as ‘fees’ in order to eliminate property tax exemptions, when that money could be better spent by churches in caring for the poor. It makes little sense to extract greater tribute from churches and charities when lost services mean a shift of the burden to the government anyway. Not only is this scheme unlawful, it’s fiscally nonsensical,” Stanley said.

According to ADF, “Churches are exempt from taxes for good reason. First, they provide essential services to the poor and disadvantaged in the community. If they did not provide these services, the government would be left to provide them. Second, churches are active in shaping virtuous citizens who contribute positively and help maintain a healthy society. Without the work of the churches, the government is unable to benefit from this intangible, but important spiritual work that churches perform. The government should view churches as an essential partner in society and not tax them, thereby removing funds from them that can be better used in fulfilling the religious mission of the church.”

Mission is a suburban area near Kansas City.

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