church bookstore in Nashville is at the center of a legal battle
being viewed as a major test case for religious freedom.
have ruled that For His Glory Bookstore at Christ Church is not
eligible for property tax exemption and owes a portion of $350,000 in
dues dating back to 2004.
have warned that if the ruling—under appeal—is upheld, it could
set a significant precedent for church bookstores and other church
ministries not only in Tennessee, but also in other parts of the
dispute has turned the spotlight on the church founded in 1949, which
has grown to a present-day membership of around 3,000 with a wide
range of ministries in its south Nashville community.
application for property tax exemption for new facilities, including
a bookstore, opened in 2004 was turned down. The church was “very
surprised,” said Linda Hilliard, administrator. “The whole
purpose for having a bookstore is to help the congregation, to get
the books they need for study and discipleship.”
an appeal to an administrative judge, authorities approved tax
exemption for parts of the center, but the bookstore and café
were among other parts denied. A further appeal was heard in August
2010 and dismissed.
then the church has been readying another challenge to the decision,
but has closed the café
and relocated and reduced the size of the bookstore pending a final
Stanley, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF),
which is representing the congregation, said that the Christ Church
case is “incredibly significant” for other churches. “Wrapped
up in tax exemption issues are a lot of other issues of the
government making determinations about what is religious and what is
not,” he said. “There are very serious constitutional concerns
that are at stake.”
the full report in the December issue of Christian Retailing.
PICTURED (left to right): Manager Katy Mashburn, Senior Pastor Dan Scott, Church Administrator Linda Hilliard