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Langley churches flouting pandemic rules could risk losing tax breaks

Last Updated Jan 12, 2021 at 3:38 pm PST

(Source: iStock)
Summary

Township of Langley councillor wants to see churches, non-profits that openly defy COVID-19 orders lose tax exemptions

Counc. Kim Richter says organizations that put people at risk shouldn't be allowed to benefit from taxpayers

A number of churches have been fined since B.C. brought in a ban on large gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic

TOWNSHIP OF LANGLEY (NEWS 1130) – A Langley Township councillor says churches and other non-profit organizations which openly violate public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic should lose local tax exemptions.

Counc. Kim Richter believes it’s time to end what she calls subsidies for organizations putting our community at risk. She’s put forward a motion which, if passed, could mean tax-exempt organizations would lose those breaks.

She says groups which do not respect public safety should lose those special grants.

“This is not a question about religious freedoms. This is a question of, ‘Why are you at the public trough?’ if you’re going to be doing things that endanger the community that you’re located in,” she tells NEWS 1130.

“It’s not fair that you get to have tax exemptions — which other taxpayers, like myself and everybody else in this community — pay for at the same time as you’re putting everybody in this community at risk by the behaviours that you feel are your right to carry out.”

Since the province implemented a ban on large gatherings due to the spread of COVID-19, a number of churches in the Fraser Valley have been penalized for holding in-person services.

Pointing to the Riverside Calvary Church in her community, Richter says it’s set to get a local break to the tune of nearly $14,000 on property tax this year.

“In the case of this one particular church in Langley that has had two orders against them already, they’re getting a grant in 2021 of approximately $13,700. And they have been getting grants from the Township since 2014,” Richter explains.

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Staff are vetting the language in the motion to ensure there won’t be any legal issues.

“I’m angry that an organization that’s being subsidized by public money is purposely and woefully putting the community that subsidizes it at risk,” Richter says.

The motion appears to have support from other councillors. Richter is hopeful other local governments explore doing this in their communities too.