Recent public dialogue around permissive tax exemptions granted to two local churches (one exemption later revoked, one not revoked) has demonstrated some local residents’ and at least one local pastor’s lack of understanding of our Canadian Constitution.
In Canada, everyone has freedom of religion and freedom of expression, although neither are absolute in that they cannot include criminal acts.
But nobody in Canada has an absolute freedom from taxation.
BC, like every other jurisdiction in Canada, mandates that municipalities cannot force recognized religious bodies to pay property taxes on their places of worship. But other property owned by religious bodies can be taxed by municipalities, unless they apply for and are granted a permissive tax exemption for cause.
This isn’t a right. It’s a privilege.
If your church does something the elected representatives in your municipality think is egregious - like promoting hatred against minority groups and spreading insane conspiracy theories - it is completely and reasonably within the power of those elected representatives to not grant you the permissive tax exemption you applied for.
So, please, shut up about your rights being violated, supporters of Bay Community Church and Aaron House Ministries. Because they’re not.
And next year, I for one will be advocating that neither of your churches receive the privilege of permissive tax exemptions ever again.