Update on the Maetreum of Cybele Saga

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Back in October of last year I covered the plight of the Maetreum of Cybele, a Pagan temple and convent located in upstate New York. The Town of Catskill has, since 2007, denied the Maetreum tax exemption on their property despite the organization being awarded Federal 501 (C)3 status, and in seeming violation of New York tax law which mandates the property tax exemption for religious and charitable organizations. That legal struggle continues, and is making the local news.

“Supervisor Peter Markou on Tuesday promised to review whether town officials have illegally prevented reinstatement of tax-exempt status for the neo-pagan group Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater for its 3-acre Palenville property. Organization founder Cathryn Platine complained during a Town Board meeting that officials needed to do more than send a form letter when providing notification that for the fourth consecutive year a 2006 exemption was not reinstated. “Once again we’ve been denied, once again we’ve not been given a legitimate reason, just a check on ‘property use,’” she said. “I’m sorry, you’ve been notified. This is capricious and arbitrary. You need to give us an actual reason that we can address in the grievance hearing and then in court because obviously we’re going to court with you.” Platine said the group was granted 501C3 religious corporation status by the Internal Revenue Service in 2005.”

Here is an update/press release just sent to me from the Maetreum of Cybele.

Last fall we were still trying to just find an attorney to represent us.  Thanks to those who spread the word far and wide, we finally did find an attorney and a reasonably priced one at that.  Thanks to a couple of very generous donations, our legal fees were also covered.

But that money is gone, the case is still in court as the Town of Catskill pulled out all legal stops to file motion after motion to dismiss.  Recently the Judge ruled on those motions, in our favour.  All that is required for us to do to keep the case before the court is re-serve the Town Assessor and now the County and School Board as well.  This is happening right now.  The attorney for the Town admitted in court, on the record, that the real reason for the denials of our property tax exemption (which is a lot of money btw) was to prevent “opening the floodgates to similar groups”.  This is an open admission of discrimination.  At this point, every single ruling by the Judge has been in our favour and we anticipate eventual victory.

The strain on our internal resources and deflection from our charitable mission has been considerable.  Despite the fact the Town has failed to answer a single legal point and restricted itself to technical objections, once again we filed for 2010 exemption and were once again denied without a valid reason given.  The county has sent us a notice that they will cease our property on Dec 31 of this year for the 2009 taxes we are still in litigation over and the 2010 taxes that are still in the appeals process.  They did not say may or could, the letter clearly stated they would.  Once they are served as party to this legal action in the next 48 hours we will file with the Judge for an injunction against them.

We feel we are fighting this cause not just for ourselves, but all minority religions.  What we are asking of the Pagan communities at this  point is this.

We need your continued spiritual support.

We could use your help raising addition money for legal fees.  You can paypal a donation to centralhouse@gallae.com directly or use the donation button on our website at gallae.com

And one last thing.  The “Board of Review” hearing for this year’s exemption is May 25 4-6 pm and 7-9 pm at the Town Hall in Catskill.  We need a show of force, peaceful demonstrators because while we may and most likely will win this in court, they won’t stop every year unless we make the cost of that too high in bad public relations.  Already I have started attending the Town meetings and calling them out and the press is taking notice.  The local press will be at the Board of Review hearing.

If you can join us, please assemble at the Maetreum of Cybele in Palenville the afternoon of May 25.  We need at least 15 or more to pull this off.  If you can, make signs ahead of time with slogans such as “freedom of religion means all religions”

We are extremely grateful for the help we’ve received before, it made the difference between having our case dismissed and keeping it active.  Our sincere thanks to the angels who donated before and especially to Jason of the Wild Hunt who really got the word out for us.

This seems like an excellent opportunity for Pagans in the upstate New York area to show solidarity, and win this organization the same legal considerations that are granted to the “mainstream” faiths in America. As always, I’ll be keeping track of this story as it develops.