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Thread: RLUIPA and rectory houses

  1. #1
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    RLUIPA and rectory houses

    Are there any RLUIPA experts here? While out running this morning I decided to run through a neighborhood I hadn't been in before and came across a gigantic house that was huge even by the standards of this particular neighborhood and street. Well, curiosity got the better of me and I looked up the property information on that city's website (gotta love communities with all of their tax information easily accessible!) and found that it is owned by a ministry group and is exempt from local taxes.

    A little more research and I discovered that the closest location for this particular ministry is about 15 miles away. I can understand that a church would claim that a house could be used as the rectory for their clergy, but when it's that far from the actual church, how can that be justified?

    I think that it would be hard to claim that housing their minister and his family in this gigantic house 15 miles from their actual church is essential to their religious practice. Maybe I'm just bitter that it's not my house, but I sort of feel like somebody is bilking the system while my fair community is losing out on $82,192.50 in property taxes each year!

    (Sure, this 10,000 square foot, multi million dollar home could be used as an orphanage or group home, but let's speculate that it's not.)
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I guess the question is whether a house that large would be allowed per zoning or whether they were allowed to break the normal rules.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    The lot is actually more than 4 acres so that house is not out of scale. Plus, the house is not new - it was built in 1991 and the ministry is not the original owner. Overall, a 10,000 square foot house, while extravagant by almost any definition, is not that unusual in this particular town and without pulling out the master plan or zoning ordinance, it would be unlikely that the construction in itself broke any rules.

    Rest assured however, that even though I may live in this town as well, you could easily fit my house in there multiple times...
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  4. #4
    Member
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    It's not uncommon

    Not all congregations provide living quarters immediately adjacent to their churches. In many instances, the parsonage (or rectory) is used to house visitors and parts of the ministry in addition to the pastor's family and living accomodations. My congregation's parsonage is 10 miles from our church as the neighbood became more commercial, maintaining a residence didn't seem appropriate.

    As far as the size/need of the home- my concern would be is it soley being used as a residence or are their church/ministry activities taking place that may or may not be covered by the zoning?

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