AZ Legislature is trying to exempt all properties used by churches from taxes


pastor steven andersonI hate gay people. You should therefore pay all my property taxes!

Arizona HB2128 is becoming a zombie bill, meaning that it will come back year after year. Here’s what it does:

The bill provides that a nonprofit property owner can file for the exemption with an affidavit from the nonprofit religious assembly or institution stating that the property is being leased primarily for the purpose of religious worship. A subsequent affidavit is not required as long as the property has the same owner.

“This helps small churches,” Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, who sponsored the bill, said on the House floor during Thursday’s vote. “Currently, churches that can afford to own their own building, they pay no property taxes because they are exempt, but small churches that do the same function sometimes cannot afford all of the money up front to buy the church, so they have to lease the church. This [bill] would allow small churches to have similar tax advantages as large churches.”

She said that the language in the bill mirrors what the state has already done for charter schools.

Under the HB 2281, a specific parcel of the property leased for nonprofit religious purposes can still classify for the exemption. However, property owners are required to show that the religious organization using the property is the only one benefiting from the tax exemption and that lease rates are consistent with the market value.

A friend of mine calls it the Pastor Stephen Anderson Tax Break, after this guy, who preaches from this strip mall. Pastor Anderson can’t afford his own church building, which is weird, since he is a proponent of these lofty ideals:

Colmes: Define “predator.” What do you mean by “predator”?

Anderson: A predator as in someone who tries to molest other people, to force people into things that they don’t want to do …

Colmes: So, let me get this straight, every homosexual in the world forces other people to do be gay?

Anderson: I believe that every homosexual in the world is a deviant, is evil, and is a predator that is out to recruit others through molestation, through rape. It’s in the news.

After some discussion whether someone like Rep. Barney Frank was a “predator” and “molester” the conversation turned toward Anderson insistence that every gay person he has ever known has been a predator and molester and that being gay is a cLast night, Alan Colmes interviewed Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church who has recently achieved fame for his sermons preaching that gays are out to rape children in order to recruit them and declaring that the only way to stop them is to kill them.

Anderson did not back down:

Colmes: Everybody who is gay is a predator?

Anderson: Well, if you disagree with that, that’s fine. But every gay person in the Bible was a predator, from Genesis to Revelation.

Colmes: Well, I don’t know about the Bible, but do you believe that every gay person in the world is a predator?

Anderson: That’s what I believe, yes. And every gay person that I’ve ever known personally has been a predator …
hoice they have made. When Colmes asked Anderson when he chose to be straight, Anderson replied that nobody chooses to be straight because everyone is “born normal” and that it is “only people who go against nature and become more and more sick” and get into “weird, sick, deviant things” like homosexuality or bestiality which, in Anderson’s views, are all the same thing.

Oh, and he also believes that those who commit adultery should be stoned to death.

In the second segment, Anderson defends his prayers for the death of President Barack Obama while repeatedly insisting that he would be in no way responsible if one of his followers went out and tried to kill him.

Do you really want to be subsidizing Pastor Anderson and his strip mall Elmer Gantry outfit? He is, after all, the cutting edge of fundamentalism.

UPDATE: Edited to remove a misinterpretation of current property tax laws on churches on my part and to note that Robbie Sherwood of Arizona Progress Now, who is the one who coined this the Pastor Steven Anderson Tax Break says that Center for AZ’s Cathi Herrod, who is behind the bill, will not testify in favor of it. My guess is she’s smart enough to know that anything she touches instantly becomes unpopular.


  1. I’d like to see how religious institution is defined for the purposes of this legislation. Perhaps there could be an exemption for hate groups masquerading as religious institutions?

  2. A Democratic member of the AZ House advised me late Monday afternoon that they have asked JLBC to prepare the fiscal note for this bill. I don’t know when the analysis will be completed.

  3. So, I have a question. Has anyone checked which churches would benefit the most from this, and if there are certain building owners who would benefit the most? It would be interesting to know. We may be looking at this the wrong way. We may be thinking of this as a tax and religion issue when we should be following the money. This could be payback for St. Cathy of Harrod and some corporate welfare for their buddies.

  4. Meanie, the one last year was calculated at $2 million, though I don’t remember over what time period.

  5. The whole concept of tax subsidies to “charities” should be questioned. It may make sense in the abstract, but in practice there are just too many problems. Why should we subsidize people for thumping the bible? Does that really make any more sense than subsidizing people who play golf on Sunday? Why should taxpayers participate in Phil Knight’s gift to build lavish facilities for University of Oregon athletes? Why should taxpayers subsidize gifts from a wealthy donor to a think tank he controls and uses to promote his worldview? Why should non-profit execs be paid enormous salaries with taxpayer-subsidized funds? The list goes on.

  6. Is there a JLBC report as to the tax consequences attached to this bill? It’s required for everything else that has a tax consequence.

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