Hemenway & Barnes partners Diane Tillotson and Ryan McManus Secure High Court Ruling in Favor of Catholic Shrine

March 22, 2017

Hemenway and Barnes partners Diane Tillotson and Ryan McManus secured an important ruling on the scope of the religious exemption from local property taxes from the state’s highest court on March 22, 2017 in the case of Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Attleboro.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Judicial Court recognized that the Shrine’s fundraising activities, cafeteria and religious articles gift shop, while not “religious worship and instruction,” supported and were connected with that worship. The Court thus held that neither those activities, nor the use of portions of the Shrine’s property by other nonprofits or for occasional receptions and other celebrations, jeopardized the Shrine’s exemption from local property taxes.

The Court rejected the local assessors’ efforts to apportion the Shrine’s property based on those other uses, holding instead that if the dominant purpose for which the space is used is either religious worship or instruction or a use connected with religious worship or instruction, then the property is exempt under the statute.

The Shrine will receive over $300,000 in abatement proceeds and going forward will likely have minimal, if any, property taxes as a result of the ruling.

To read the full judgment, you may download the PDF here.