In an unusual complaint, a New Canaan man last week sued St. Aloysius Catholic Church for $15.21, saying that’s how much he would’ve saved in local property taxes if the church didn’t have tax-exempt status.
Specifically, Walter Foster argued in his complaint that St. A’ somehow influenced a state representative with respect to abortion-related legislation and therefore shouldn’t qualify as tax-exempt under federal code.
The legislator has been “influenced” by the church’s “repeated, written and unequivocal opposition to abortion,” according to the lawsuit, filed July 22 in state Superior Court. As such, the church is engaging in “substantial legislative activity,” in violation of federal IRS Code, according to Foster.
He then calculates the taxes that St. A’s would have paid the town and the amount of money he would’ve saved as a result, a percentage of $8,455 ($119 for a car and $8,316 for a condo)—$15.21.
Much of Foster’s 20-page complaint, embedded below as a PDF, reviews the Catholic Church and its teachings. He appears to argue that the church in its broad local reach influences the elected official, and uses the lawsuit to criticize the church generally. The complaint includes dozens of footnotes citing the Catechism, Bible and ‘Catholic Church’ Wikipedia page, among other sources.
“Plaintiff claims the question of the moment a fetus becomes a human being should be determined by U.S. law, not by a Pope’s or Ecumenical Council’s interpretation of Moses’ two-thousand-year-old religious commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ ” the complaint said. “In this case Defendants are failing to ‘render under Caesar those things that are Caesar’s’ by failing to render unto the Untied States respect for the laws of the country. And Plaintiff’s threat of ex-communication to parishioners supporting better access to abortion constitutes a clear and present attempt to influence legislation through punishment to parishioners who disagree.”
It continues: “Defendants are like an elephant in the room. No politician needs a poll to find out how many parishioners of Defendants’ congregation are opposed to abortion. The congregation’s vehement objections are all found in their Catechism and in the infallible dictates of a foreign dictator—the Pope.”
The lawsuit names five non-appearing defendants, including the church, its pastor, the director of religious education at St. Aloysius School, the state rep and New Canaan assessor.
Foster identifies himself as resident of Canaan Close, a condominium complex along Route 123 near East Avenue. While he is not listed as a property owner in the assessor database, Foster’s unit in the complex beings to Elizabeth Greer Foster, tax records show.
The lawsuit describes the state rep as Deputy Republican Leader at Large and cites state legislation related to abortion, including at least one statute last updated in 1995, nearly two decades before the state rep named in the suit was elected to the General Assembly.
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