Mansion’s ‘cross’ didn’t help banker’s tax case

One of the most artful property-tax tricks in the history of Illinois — a sham of near biblical proportions — has finally been exorcised.

This is the story of Chicago banker George Michael, who lives in a gorgeous $3 million mansion in Lake Bluff. Being a man of logic and finance, he didn’t much like his $80,000 yearly property-tax bill.

So he found an Internet outfit called the Church of Spiritual Humanism. According to the church’s Web site, it’s not big on faith, but it’s all about reason:

“If you agree that Religion must be based on Reason, you can be ordained right now for free, and be still able to practice your own religious traditions by simply clicking the button below:


And lo, Michael clicked “Ordain Me,” and it was done.

Michael submitted evidence to the Illinois Department of Revenue that his mansion wasn’t really a mansion. It was a church and therefore exempt from the burden of $80,000 a year in property taxes.

The article goes on, but this is the part that cracked me up:

Michael’s evidence that his mansion was a church included a copy of his snazzy Internet clergy ID card, which authorizes him to “perform all duties of the clergy including marriages, baby namings, invocations and all manner of religious ceremonies.”

He also included a photograph of the home depicting a suspicious-looking cross on the exterior wall of the mansion. The photo appeared a tad askew.

“This equal-sided cross was drawn on the photograph with a marker and did not physically exist at the time the photo was taken,” Galvin wrote in his order.

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