March 24, 2010; Gainesville Sun | The Dove World Outreach Center is a walking poster child for rethinking the religious tax exemption. Located in Gainesville, Fla. this religious institution seems intent on pushing the boundaries of charitable eligibility in three arenas—partisan political activity, for-profit business activities, and good taste.
On the political and good taste issues, Dove World has a public sign suggesting its position toward a gay candidate for the city’s top elected office: “No homo mayor” (its previous foray into public signs in bad taste read, ISLAM IS OF THE DEVIL).
Beyond the lack of delicacy in the statement, the sign appears to be an example of blatant political activity that threatens the church’s eligibility for charitable donations. The church also owns TS and Company, a for-profit limited liability company that sells furniture through eBay. The business seems to be clearly for-profit, but the church has said since 1992 that no portion of its properties are used for non-exempt purposes.
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The tax assessor expects property owners to update their property status as soon as changes are made, but Dove World seems to be a bit slow on the uptake. The nation’s hundreds of thousands of churches are as diverse as the nation’s 1.5 public charities, but Dove World Outreach Center is one of a number of churches that thinks the notion of the separation of church and state means church doesn’t have to follow the rules established by the state.—Rick Cohen
Editor’s Note: We shouldn’t be surprised by more articles with the title, “Should Churches Be Tax Exempt?” How will Dove World defend itself? Perhaps that it didn’t know the law about changing property status descriptions? As another case in Tennessee about a church and its property notes, “New Covenant, like any taxpayer, has a duty to find out about any taxes that may be applicable. Taxpayers do not get to benefit from a lack of knowledge of the law.”