Here's an excellent, almost sympathetic (although, as usual, points off for failure to capitalize "Pagan", etc.), write-up of the long-running legal battle between the Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater and the Town of Catskill over the town's denial of a religious property tax exemption on the Maetreum's three-acre parcel along Route 23A.
The town's "reasons" for the denial sure do sound bogus:
First, Dan Vincelette, the town’s primary counsel in this proceeding, said during a phone interview that the 2007 exemption was initially denied because the group was experiencing structural turmoil during that year. No explanation for how that impacts tax exempt status. Nor of whether any xian church, in the process of throwing out its minister, has ever lost or been denied such status.
Then, According to Platine, a tour of the property by town officials, including Vincelette, yielded, to them, little sign of religious iconography.
Though to an unfamiliar vision, and without knowledge of their significance, Platine said, the Cybelline themes and traditional pagan symbols abounding throughout the hotel property may seem obscure.
“Here is a Minoan lily,” Platine said as she pointed to an inconspicuous hand-painted blue and yellow flower on the kitchen’s wooden bar.
Hanging on a kitchen wall were images of goddesses, the ancient deities praised by the Minoan culture.
On the parlor room mantle, amidst a piano and functional beeswax, cylinder-playing Victrola, sits a shrine where the priestesses worship and pray. In its center is a statuette of the Seated Woman of Catal Huyuk, also called Catalhoyuk, an iconographic depiction of the Mother Goddess.
The front entrance of the former inn shows Maetreum stenciling above the doorway, with goddess sculpture hanging beside the doorway and two lion statues guarding the entry way — a traditional guardian of ancient societies, Platine said. So I guess that unless you've got a crucifix or a star of david, there's no "religious iconography." No one tell them about the Islamic prohibition on representational art.
Then, During the Dec. 2 hearing, Pulver asked Smith for the precise arrears amount owed by the Maetreum, to which she responded that “the issue we are looking at isn’t so much the dollars and cents of exactly what the taxes are, which I don’t have off the top of my head, the issue is opening the floodgates. Once you relax the requirements, and if you stretch them too far, then you’re going to have just a multitude of organizations who under the spirit of the law go —”
At that moment, the official court transcript shows Smith was interrupted by Pulver, who again asked how much the amount of taxes owed was. Smith said she didn’t know and did not further qualify her statement. Come on. "Under the spirit of the law"? Really? Really?
To be clear, I don't think that any religious group should get a tax exemption, not even my own. But if you're going to give it to the xians, then you have to give it to everybody and you have to use the same standards.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."