A South Nashville megachurch facing a $425,000 property tax bill is fighting the assessment on its gym, bookstore and cafe.
The Tennessee State Board of Equalization, which decides tax exemptions for churches, contends those are commercial enterprises, so the portion of church property they occupy can be taxed.
The 2,300-member Christ Church insists that’s an outdated view of how churches operate, and those enterprises should be considered part of ministerial outreach.
“They think a church worships on Sunday and then everybody goes away,” pastor Dan Scott said. “Anything else you do is not church. But Christianity is not something you dive into once a week.”
But the question of who can decide which parts of a church are religious and secular is drawing national attention, with some calling it a First Amendment issue. Christ Church shut down its cafe and bookstore and handed off its gym to the YMCA of Middle Tennessee this year as the dispute dragged on, moves meant to keep the tax bill from increasing.