COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina has tagged into a wrestling match between a Virginia city and a church over a tax exemption.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced on Wednesday that he was one of 15 state attorneys general to sign on to a friend-of-the-court brief led by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
The other states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.
“Religious liberty is the backbone of our constitutional rights,” Wilson said. “The courts have always upheld a religious group’s authority to decide who its ministers are but a lower court trampled on that, putting religious freedom at risk everywhere.”
The brief has been filed in the Trustees of New Life in Christ Church v. City of Fredericksburg case.
Basically, the case revolves around the church’s application for a religious exemption for a property the church uses to house people it says are ministers and as a ministry for college students attending the University of Mary Washington and Germanna Community College.
The city denied the church’s application for a religious permit on the basis that the people living at the property are not ministers according to the Presbyterian Book of Church Order.
The church contends that the city’s interpretation of the Book of Church Order is incorrect and that the government cannot interpret religious documents as it would be a violation of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.
The case was appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court. That court sided with the city and the church then appealed to the Supreme Court.