Portions of Property Exempt for Religious Use 

Tax Alert

September 26, 2014

A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that portions of a 45-acre tract were entitled to exemption as places of regularly stated religious worship. Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary of Earth Religion v. Medford County Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes, No. 1963 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Commw. Sept. 16, 2014). The tract in question was used to conduct open air religious practices of a religious faith. The property was secluded, which served to protect the privacy of the participants. The trial court held that certain portions of the property were exempt but others were not. The court agreed that the entire 45 acres was not exempt because some portion of it was used for religious practices and other portions were used for privacy or not at all. The court agreed with the trial court that certain sheer cliff faces were not entitled to exemption. A religious ceremony was conducted on them once every three years, which was not enough to qualify as a place of regularly stated religious worship. The court rejected the argument that the entire river bordering the property should be tax exempt. Although religious ceremonies were conducted from time to time in three places, most of the river was not used. The court agreed that a kitchen, open air pavilion, steward sheds, shower, and toilet facilities were not exempt. There was no evidence to show that these buildings were used for religious purposes. The court did agree that portions of the property were essential to privacy for the religious ceremonies and could qualify, and remanded for a determination as to what portion of the property would be entitled to exemption for this reason. The court reversed the trial court below and held that a dormitory was entitled to exemption because it was reasonably necessary for the religious practices. Many participants came from many miles away and needed a place to stay. The trial court had granted an exemption for campsites and the court found no distinction for the dormitory that could in particular accommodate older persons. Finally, the court remanded for a determination of the specific acreage entitled to exemption.


Joseph C. Bright



(215) 665-2053

Dan A. Schulder



(717) 703-5905

Cheryl A. Upham



(215) 665-4193

Related Practices

To discuss any questions you may have regarding the opinion discussed in this Alert, or how it may apply to your particular circumstances, please contact: Joseph C. Bright at jbright@cozen.com or 215.665.2053, Dan A. Schulder at dschulder@cozen.com or 717.703.5905 or Cheryl A. Upham at cupham@cozen.com or 215.665.4193.