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Salvation Army v. Town of Standish
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Decision:1998 ME 75
on Briefs:February 13, 1998
Decided:April 14, 1998




	[¶1] The Town of Standish and its Tax Assessor appeal from a
judgment entered in the Superior Court (Cumberland County, Mills, J.)
exempting a parcel of The Salvation Army's real property from taxation
pursuant to 36 M.R.S.A. § 652 (1990 & Supp. 1997).  On appeal, the Town
contends that the property is not exempt because The Salvation Army, as a
religious organization, is not organized primarily for benevolent or charitable
purposes and, in any event, the property is not used solely for the
organization's benevolent and charitable purposes.  Finding no error, we
affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.                                    	
	[¶2]  The undisputed facts may be summarized as follows:  The
Salvation Army owns and operates a summer camp for underprivileged
children in Standish.  The camp consists of four contiguous parcels of land
all owned by The Salvation Army.  Only the status of the second of these
parcels is contested.  Parcel 2 includes three residential buildings, tennis
courts, and a fishing pier.  The residential buildings are used as overflow
housing for campers and staff during the normal operating season. 
Beginning in 1994, The Salvation Army allowed its officers and their families
to vacation in the residential buildings when vacant.  The Salvation Army
charged its officers a nominal fee for the use of the buildings.  Although The
Salvation Army has owned the property for over forty years, the Standish
Assessor first assessed taxes on Parcel 2 in December of 1996 for the 1996,
1995, and 1994 tax years.
 	[¶3]  Following the assessment, The Salvation Army filed a complaint
for declaratory relief, seeking a declaration that Parcel 2 is exempt from
taxation.  It then filed a motion for summary judgment, and the court ruled
in its favor.  The Town now appeals.  
	[¶4]  A summary judgment will be affirmed when there is no genuine
issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law. Episcopal Camp Found. Inc. v. Town of Hope, 666 A.2d 108, 110 (Me.
1995).  The statutory exemption involved in this appeal provides in relevant
	The following property of institutions and organizations is
exempt from taxation:

	1. Property of institutions and organizations.
		A. The real estate and personal property owned and
occupied or used solely for their own purposes by benevolent 
and charitable institutions incorporated by this State . . . .
			. . . .
		C. Further conditions to the right of exemption
under paragraphs A and B are that:
		(1) Any corporation claiming exemption under
paragraph A must be organized and conducted exclusively for
benevolent and charitable purposes;
		(2) A director, trustee, officer or employee of an
organization claiming exemption is not entitled to receive
directly or indirectly any pecuniary profit from the operation of
that organization, excepting reasonable compensation for
services in effecting its purpose  or as a proper beneficiary of its
strictly benevolent or charitable purposes.

36 M.R.S.A. § 652(1) (Supp. 1997). 
	[¶5]  Initially, the Town argues that The Salvation Army's purpose and
mission is religious and, therefore, it does not qualify as a benevolent and
charitable organization.  Recently, we reaffirmed the principle that an
organization's religious affiliation or religious purpose will not "remove it
from the purview of the tax exemption statute." City of Lewiston v. Marcotte
Congregate Hous., Inc., 673 A.2d 209, 212 (Me. 1996).  The Salvation Army
operates as a non-profit corporation devoted to the "religious, charitable,
educational or missionary purposes" of The Salvation Army.  The Christian
faith is an integral part of the organization, but that fact alone does not
contradict its benevolent and charitable purpose.  See Episcopal Camp
Found., Inc. v. Town of Hope, 666 A.2d 108, 110 (Me. 1995); Green Acre
Baha'i Inst. v. Town of Eliot, 150 Me. 350, 110 A.2d 581 (Me. 1954); Town
of Poland v. Poland Spring Health Inst., Inc., 649 A.2d 1098 (Me. 1994).
 	[¶6]  The Town next argues that the property must be used solely in
furtherance of The Salvation Army's charitable purposes.  The statute
provides that: "The real estate and personal property owned and occupied
or used solely for their own purposes by benevolent and charitable
institutions incorporated by this State . . .." 36 M.R.S.A. § 652(1)(A) (Supp.
1997) is tax exempt.  Here, it is undisputed that The Salvation Army owns
and occupies Parcel 2.  The buildings on the land serve many functions, and
each is for the organization's own purposes.  
	[¶7]  Finally, the Assessor argues that by using the buildings to provide
inexpensive vacation lodging for its officers, The Salvation Army has violated
section 652(1)(C)(2).  The statute provides that officers of a charitable
organization may not receive any pecuniary profit either directly or
indirectly from the operation of the organization, "excepting reasonable
compensation for services in effecting its purposes or as a proper
beneficiary of its strictly benevolent or charitable purposes." 36 M.R.S.A. §
652(1)(C)(2) (Supp. 1997).  Here, the incidental use of the buildings
constitutes nothing more than  "compensation" for the services the officers
perform on behalf of the charitable organization. 
	[¶8] The Superior Court correctly ruled that Parcel 2 remains exempt
from taxation.
	The entry is:
					Judgment affirmed.
Attorney for plaintiff: Michael S. Wilson, Esq. Pierce Atwood One Monument Square Portland, ME 04101-1110 Attorney for defendants: Michael D. Cooper, Esq. P O Box 529 Westbrook, ME 04098