Quick Note: Maetreum of Cybele Makes the New York Times

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 10, 2011 — 13 Comments

The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater’s ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, covered several times here at The Wild Hunt, has made the New York Times. The usual arguments are repeated, centering on if their house/Maetreum was directly tied to a religious purpose, or if it’s simply a living dwelling with incidental religious trappings. A battle that’s been played out in Catskill for decades, as they try to increase their tax revenue by targeting minority religions, since they’ve openly admitted they lack the resources to go after bigger targets. In this latest article, reporter Peter Applebome notes that the Maetreum “might not be Sunday church religion,” but is clearly religious all the same, and that the law seems to favor them if they can hold out.

“There are, of course, all kinds of questions that can be asked about religious tax exemptions over all, but the Maetreum’s $5,400 tax bill is unlikely to rival the multimillion-dollar exemptions of conventional religions. Still, with unconventional religions on the rise, it poses issues that go beyond the old inn here. The Cybelines are facing possible foreclosure proceedings for the $13,800 they owe and appealing for money. But in the smorgasbord of religious law, they may also have weapons of their own if they want to pursue a discrimination claim. They say they just want to get back to where they were.”

It truly seems that this battle will hinge over who runs out of resources for this fight first. The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater are clearly the underdogs, holding continual fundraisers to offset their mounting legal bills, but the Town of Catskill has also stripped its budget for these kinds of cases bare. The question now is who will blink first? With the New York Times writing a sympathetic article about the tax-fighting Goddess worshipers, it may not be in the town’s best interests to continue.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Inara

    Why isn't the ACLU involved in this? This is clearly a case of discrimination, especially since I understand that running a women's shelter is not taxable.

  • Ursyl

    I don't understand why the ACLU isn't all over this either. It doesn't get any more basic than this.

    • Crystal7431

      They might step in now that the story has been taken up by the New York Times. No offense to the ACLU, but they have a tendency to prefer high profile cases. I guess it makes sense given the services are pro bono.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Has the ACLU been asked to involve itself?

      • catkisser

        Twice in the past and they refused.

        • catkisser

          and I just recontacted NYCLU and was blown off again

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Can you share their reasoning? Or was it a form letter? Or is the question too nosey?

          • catkisser

            an email exchange with the Capital Area director, whom I'm met in the past. No reason, just not interested….

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I can think of two possible reasons, consistent with their mission, for their reluctance.

            1) It will create no new case law. What Catskill is doing is so transparently illegal that the case only needs to get to a court free of local influence (I'm from Ohio, I know the feeling) for the plain language of the First Amendment to be applied.

            2) It might create new law but the ACLU cannot count on Catskill not to fold before they get to the US Supreme Court.