518 N.E.2d 755, 165 Ill. App. 3d 200, 116 Ill. Dec. 133 1988.IL.8
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Bureau County; the Hon. C. Howard Wampler, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SCOTT delivered the opinion of the court. HEIPLE and STOUDER, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SCOTT
The plaintiff, Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ, serves as a corporate entity which binds together approximately 330 congregations in the State of Illinois which are members of the United Church of Christ.
The Conference operates an outdoor ministry known as Pilgrim Park on real estate it owns in Bureau County. A "Statement of Purpose" promulgated by the Conference provides an adequate guide as to the activities and programs which occur at the Bureau County ministry. A portion of the statement which is pertinent to this case provides as follows:
"We are seeking to provide a unique setting outdoors for individuals and groups to experience and live out the biblical faith, and to experience a place for recreation and reflection. We might have that by gathering together a diverse variety of persons from beyond the local church. An outdoor ministry setting will enable the growth of the whole church. Outdoor ministry exists to enable and help complete the many ministries of the whole church through the individuals of all ages, especially the outdoor ministry programs that the Illinois Conference seeks."
After an administrative hearing the defendant, Illinois Department of Revenue, denied tax-exemption status on two parcels of real estate within the Pilgrim Park complex. On appeal the circuit court of Bureau County reversed the ruling of the Department of Revenue and granted a motion of the plaintiff Conference for a stay of all taxes concerning the subject parcels.
This appeal is concerned with only a single parcel identified as parcel 010, consisting of 1.6 acres. The defendant Department of Revenue conceded that the other parcel, 007, involved in the case had been improperly denied tax-exempt status by the hearing officer. This small tract of real estate is used as a residence for the caretaker and his wife and the grazing of horses, and religious services are conducted on the parcel.
The defendant Department of Revenue in this appeal seeks a reversal of the circuit court's order granting tax exemption on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the primary purpose and use of the parcel was religious rather than residential and recreational.
Our State constitution provides that the legislature may exempt from taxation property used for religious purposes. Ill. Const. 1970, art. IX, § 6.
Pursuant to this constitutional authority, our legislature enacted the following legislation:
"Sec. 19.2. All property used exclusively for religious purposes, or used exclusively for school and religious purposes, or for orphanages and not leased or otherwise used with a view to profit, including all such property owned by churches or religious institutions or denominations and used in conjunction therewith as parsonages or other housing facilities provided for ministers (including bishops, district superintendents and similar church officials whose ministerial duties are not limited to a single congregation), their spouses, children and domestic employees, performing the duties of their vocation as ministers at such churches or religious institutions or for such religious denominations, and including the convents and monasteries where persons engaged in religious activities reside." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 120, par. 500.2.
The foregoing statutory language allows an exemption for property used exclusively for religious purposes. (McKenzie v. Johnson (1983), 98 Ill. 2d 87, 456 N.E.2d ...