On appeal from Division of Tax Appeals.
Lora, Michels and Larner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lora, P.J.A.D.
[167 NJSuper Page 17] Petitioner, a conscientious objector during World War II, was assigned by the Selective Service System to "work of national importance" under civilian direction in lieu of military service from 1941 to 1945. His application for the 1972 tax year for the $50 annual veterans' deduction granted under N.J.S.A. 54:4-8.10 of the Local Property Tax Law for his home at 204 Eastbourne Terrace, Moorestown, was denied by the tax assessor of the Township of Moorestown and said denial was affirmed by the Burlington County Board of Taxation. Thereafter, the State Division of Tax Appeals determined that the appellant was in civilian service during the war, was not a veteran as
defined by N.J.S.A. 54:4-8.10(h) and hence did not qualify for the exemption.
On appeal, petitioner contends that the denial of such deduction to World War II civilian draftees who performed alternative service, imposes an annual, discriminatory penalty of cumulative economic impact for past "witness" to religious beliefs, in violation of N.J. Const. (1947), Art. I, par. 5, and penalizes them annually for their past exercise of their religious beliefs contrary to N.J. Const. (1947), Art. I, par. 3, and in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution which is applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
Appellant's alternative service duty included working as a fire tower operator, a forest fire fighter, a timber cruiser, a hookworm eradicator and taking part in a liferaft rations experiment.
N.J. Const. (1947), Art. VIII, § 1, par. 3, provides in pertinent part that
Any citizen and resident of this State now or hereafter honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active service, in time of war or of other emergency as, from time to time, defined by the Legislature, in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States shall be entitled, annually, to a deduction from the amount of any tax bill for taxes on real and personal property, or both, in the sum of $50.00 or if the amount of any such tax bill shall be less than $50.00, to a cancellation thereof, which deduction or cancellation shall not be altered or repealed.
The intent of the framers of this provision was to mandate statutory property tax relief to compensate veterans for the experiences of war and to encourage veterans to purchase property in this State. The minutes of the proceedings give no indication that the drafters of the provision intended to include conscientious objectors who served in civilian service during the war. 5 Proceedings of the New Jersey Constitutional Convention of 1947 , Proceedings before Committee on Taxation and Finance, July 10, 1947, at pp. 666 to 672.
The veterans' deduction, authorized and mandated by the aforesaid Article of the New Jersey Constitution, is implemented by N.J.S.A. 54:4-8.11:
Every person a citizen and resident of this State now or hereafter honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active service in time of war in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States and a widow as defined herein, during her widowhood and while a resident of this State, shall be entitled, annually, on proper claim being made therefor, to a deduction from the amount of any tax bill for taxes on real or personal ...