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Friday, May 24, 2024

Judge says religious grounds not tax exempt

With the destruction of St. Raphael’s Cathedral in downtown Madison, “The Way of the Cross,” a 14-station portrayal of Jesus’ journey to persecution replaced the house of worship. But on Tuesday, Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford ruled against a policy which makes a religiously affiliated “building” tax exempt.

St. Raphael's Cathedral, destroyed by arson in 2005, was a place of worship located at 222 West Main St. in Madison. In more recent years, the sight’s location has been a point of controversy.

“The property [of the former church] was assessed at just over $4 million, and the congregation paid $98,480 in property taxes,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Lanford had little issue admitting the location was being used for religious reasons. The issue for her was the absence of “buildings.”

The property owner sued the city of Madison in 2014. The 14 depictions within the hallowed grounds, honoring Jesus and his voyage to crucifixion, cannot replace the fact buildings are absent, according to Lanford’s standards.

Shortly after “The Way of the Cross” was constructed, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess said the organization missed the deadline to file for tax exemption in 2013. The city denied requests from the organization in 2014 and 2015 for property tax exemption.

Parishioners want to keep the property due not only to its history, but to its close proximity to other churches, such as St. Patrick’s Church, in the area. The building of a new cathedral is said to be on the horizon as claimed by the former churchgoers, yet Madison Catholic Diocese said a new place of worship is uncertain.

Lanford’s reasoning indicated that even though the diocese have obtained property for a new cathedral, “it has not submitted plans of any kind into this record.” She continued by saying the diocese in Madison, “requires the institution of a significant capital gain to get the money to begin construction,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Although “The Way of the Cross” held just 20 prayer services in 2013 and 26 in 2014, the organization argued “The Way of the Cross” is always open for religious contemplation. But those services and the prospect of a future cathedral is not enough for property tax exemption at this point in time, according to Lanford.

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