Friday, January 18, 2013

Israeli ultra-Orthodox politicians seek to broaden house of worship tax exemption to include all religions

Another backlog item, as reported by Aviel Magnezi of Ynet News, August 12, 2012:

It is not every day the representatives of one religion speak up for other religions. Following a petition to the Supreme Court about favoring synagogues over other religions' houses of prayer, Orthodox members of Knesset issued an amendment to the law last week.

In early 2012, The Jerusalem Institute of Justice, providing legal and public advocacy for marginalized communities in Israel, petitioned the Supreme Court to address discrimination in tax exemptions for tabernacles.

The petition stated that while all houses of worship are exempt from municipal tax, only synagogues get tax exemptions for halls outside the main house of prayer, whereas mosques and churches that include other structures on their premises must pay municipal taxes for those structures.

Shortly after the petition was filed, Knesset representatives turned to the Supreme Court, stating that Shas MK Nissim Zeev and Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism have issued a bill that offers exemption from municipal tax to additional property of all places of worship of all religions.

The petitioners demanded that until the discriminatory law is addressed, synagogues' tax exemption must be revoked. Zeev and Gafni emended the law, and the Knesset approved the amendment, promoting religious equality, though probably upsetting municipalities' tax balances.

Following the amendment, petitioners are about to file a motion to close the petition.

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