The Watershed Post reports that the Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater’s ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, covered several times here at The Wild Hunt, and which recently made the New York Times, has had a major legal breakthrough. Last week Judge George J. Pulver, Jr. of the Greene County Supreme Court issued a searing decision in favor of the Maetreum which “demolished” the town’s reasoning for denying tax exemption on their property.
Vincelette attempted to “strip [the Maetreum] of its religious status … without bothering to set forth any personal expertise or objective basis for his conclusion,” the judge wrote. The argument that religious events at the Maetreum are too infrequent “has no basis,” he wrote, and is a “subjective standard” that “is so vague that it would wreak havoc if it were generally applied to religious organizations in Greene County.” The argument seems to be tailor-made to fit the Maetreum, Pulver wrote. “That [Vincelette’s] standards are directed at [the Maetreum] alone and will never be applied to other churches and charitable organizations seems inescapable.”
“In a seventeen page decision on the motion of the Town of Catskill to dismiss our case and our counter motion for summery judgment the Maetreum was granted a stay from any tax foreclosure action by the county. In three separate places in that decision the Judge commented directly on the clear discriminatory nature of the stated basis for our denial in language that chided the Town attorney for vague nature of his complants and claims. Further, the judge, one by one and with cited precedences denied the legitimacy of all the rationale offered by the Town attorney for denial of our exemption leaving them without a basis for having done so. It fell short of actual summery judgment, just short. The Judge made clear that he expects us to show the religious use of our property in court but also indicated he is already aware we do so and are a legitimate religion. The Judge basically handed us a ready made Federal case against the Town of Catskill if we decide to proceed in that manner as well as more than enough to re-open our complaint with the State Attorney Generals Office of open discrimination by the Town of Catskill. By avoiding mention of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Persons Act of 2000, he preserved our use of that as basis of a Federal court case. In short, he communicated that the Town would be well advised to settle with us now. On Monday we will have to file for our 2011 property tax exemption with the Town Assessor. That filing will include citations from this decision. Given that, if we are once again denied we will proceed directly to Federal Court and file the action with the State AG’s office which should trigger a full scale investigation into the Town of Catskill.”
As both the Watershed Post and the statement point out, this case isn’t yet over, but it seems very apparent that the Town of Catskill’s case is quickly falling apart under official scrutiny. Once it is done, the Maetreum of Cybele will have won a major victory for all Pagan faiths looking to build lasting infrastructure, in New York, and across the United States. Anyone wanting to donate to the Maetreum’s legal fees, can still do so at their web site. Congratulations to the Maetreum on this win!
ADDENDUM: The Watershed Post has posted the Maetreum of Cybele Summary Judgment Decision document.