"The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities." --Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity
The Maetreum of Cybele is a 501c federally recognized tax-exempt organization, locked in a tax battle with the town of Catskill, who do not wish to grant a tax exemption to an "illegitimate religion." This legal battle has been drawn out for seven years, in an attempt to spend the Pagan monastery out of existence via legal fees. If you're not disturbed by this information, you should be.
The Maetreum of Cybele is seeking donations to fund its continuing legal fight to have its tax-exempt status recognized by the Town of Catskill. I was in court when a panel of appellate judges (New York's second-highest jurists) heard testimony which led to a ruling in the Maetreum's favor, one which was covered by the likes of Forbes and the New York Law Journal.
Like many small towns in this state, Catskill is apparently loathe to take a property off the tax rolls. Both state and federal governments continue to heap unfunded mandates on local municipalities, which must also manage rising health-care costs and a tax cap which ensures that the revenue will never keep up with the costs without cutting what the law will allow, such as programs for senior citizens and other "discretionary" expenses.
PALENVILLE, NEW YORK -- The Maetreum of Cybele got to the end of its seven-year property-tax fight with the Town of Catskill today, when a three-judge panel of Appellate Court judges ruled that they do, indeed, deserve the same tax exemptions that other churches do. While the town still has one more chance to appeal at the state's highest court, Reverend Cathryn Platine feels that the decision's wording makes that unlikely. A portion provided by Platine reads as follows:
That's what one of the justices -- described by a courtroom regular as "very Catholic" -- remarked during oral arguments about the Maetreum of Cybele's property tax exemption case. The Town of Catskill gave this Pagan congregation the religious tax break in 2006, then yanked it, and it's been in court ever since. This afternoon it was before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, the lofty title given to the ''second''-highest court in the state. The appeal was to a lower court decision (that's the Supreme Court if you're keeping track) that determined that no, a property tax exemption was not necessary for what the ruling justice deemed was essentially a residence.
Four justices heard the oral arguments, with ten minutes from the appellant's attorney Deborah Schneer, then ten minutes from Daniel Vincellente for the town, and another minute of rebuttal by Schneer.