By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News)– La Paz County is forcing a small church that helps the homeless to close its doors by June 15 unless it pays $68,000 in back-taxes and penalties that both state law and the Arizona Department of Revenue say the church doesn't even owe, according to International Christian Concern.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are representing the Church of the Isaiah 58 Project of Arizona, but since state courts have been unwilling to defer payment of the back-taxes until litigation is completed, the congregation is facing foreclosure as it operates on a budget of only $50,000 per year.
"Churches shouldn't live in fear of being punished by the government when they've not done anything wrong, but that's precisely what is happening to this church," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. "If La Paz County officials have their way, this church will lose everything."
"The county assessor illegally levied these taxes against the church even though the Arizona Department of Revenue provided a letter stating that the church should owe no taxes. We join community leaders and the homeless whom the church serve in hoping that the church will obtain the amount it needs to continue operating and to continue its legal fight against this injustice."
Under state law, the church qualified for an exemption from property taxes and filed the appropriate paperwork with the La Paz County property assessor. But after waiting for three years, the assessor only granted the church a tax exemption for 2009 and later, leaving it with back-taxes for 2007-2008 that it legally shouldn't owe.
Supporters have contributed to help the church pay its tax bill so it can remain open and continue its lawsuit, but the church still needs about $30,000 to avoid foreclosure from a tax lien on its property.