Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Religious Property Tax Exemption


In Armenian Church of Lake Bluff v. Department of Revenue, the First District Appellate Court upheld the denial of a property tax exemption for a 5-acre property on the shore of Lake Michigan improved with a single family residence that the owners claimed was the parsonage and cathedral of a church they created. The facts of the case are an extreme example of the lengths to which taxpayers will go in order to obtain a property tax exemption.

After purchasing the property in 2004 for $3 million and building additions to the home, including an indoor swimming pool and racquetball court, the owner of the property visited the website of a humanist church and obtained an instant online ordination as a Reverend for $75. The next year, the property was transferred to a newly formed corporation called “Armenian Church of Lake Bluff.” A property tax exemption application was then filed in 2007. The application claimed the property was housing for a religious officer as well as the administrative offices and cathedral of the church.

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