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St. Matthew''s Lutheran Church for Deaf v. Division of Tax Appeals

Decided: April 3, 1952.

ST. MATTHEW'S LUTHERAN CHURCH FOR THE DEAF, APPELLANT,
v.
DIVISION OF TAX APPEALS, STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND TOWN OF NUTLEY, RESPONDENTS



Eastwood, Bigelow and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.c.c.

Francis

St. Matthew's Lutheran Church for the Deaf appeals from the determination of the Division of Tax Appeals that certain premises owned by it are not entitled to a tax exemption under R.S. 54:4-3.6, as amended.

This statute provides so far as is pertinent, as follows:

"The following property shall be exempt from taxation under this chapter:

It is undisputed that appellant is a religious corporation of this State and that it is the owner of premises designated as 12 Russell Avenue in the Town of Nutley, New Jersey. The premises consist of a two-story frame dwelling on a lot 50 feet by 100 feet.

The organization was created to serve the religious and spiritual needs of the deaf in New Jersey. It grew out of the recognition that deaf persons could not participate effectively or enjoy religious services conducted in the usual manner by a vocal clergyman. Lack of hearing capacity

made necessary the ministrations of a pastor specially trained in their means of communication.

Reverend Floyd Possehl, the only witness who testified below, is an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church. Having had the requisite special training, he was assigned to officiate in New Jersey as the pastor of the St. Matthew's Lutheran Church for the Deaf and the performance of his specialized ministerial functions among the deaf here occupies his entire time. In his capacity as such pastor appellant turned over to him for occupancy as a parsonage the taxed premises, and he asserted at the hearing that he used them solely for that purpose. The municipality presented no challenge to this claimed use.

Appellant does not own a church. The religious services in Newark are conducted in the Redeemer Lutheran Church at 664 Broadway, through the courtesy of that church. However, it has an established congregation which meets there every Sunday afternoon. Apparently the taxing agency had some information with respect to Reverend Possehl's activities and the existence of a congregation because, on cross-examination, counsel asked him if he was connected with St. Matthew's Lutheran Church at 280 Peshine Avenue, Newark, and he answered that "The congregation which used to meet at 282 Peshine Avenue is the same congregation which I now have, which meets at 664 Broadway." He then went on to say: "At the time I served the group on Peshine Avenue, I used to serve that while living in New York; and then we decided that the deaf in this area needed full-time service and so I was placed in this field."

In addition to serving the religious needs of the deaf in Newark he conducts services for those similarly afflicted in Jersey City, Elizabeth, Trenton and Paterson. This is done at the various local Lutheran churches and again such use is permitted as a matter of courtesy.

Appellant is not associated with a particular national religious corporation. However, the explanation offered was that as a religious ...


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