Langley RCMP has twice issued fines to Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)

Langley RCMP has twice issued fines to Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)

Langley Township could strip tax break from churches defying COVID health orders

Council debated a draft of the motion on Monday, Jan. 11.

Churches and non-profits that normally get a break on their taxes could run into trouble next year in Langley Township if they violated provincial health orders this year.

Township Councillor Kim Richter put forward a motion Monday that would yank the permissive tax exemption status in 2022 from any organization that doesn’t abide by the rules of the Provincial Health Officer.

“I think we have to put our foot down,” Richter said.

“There are lots of organizations out there that get the grant… and they abide by the rules, and they should continue to be supported by public monies,” Richter said.

But the ones purposely ignoring public health orders don’t deserve to continue to enjoy the benefits of public tax dollars, Richter said.

The November health order, recently extended to early February, shut down a number of businesses, including movie theatres, live plays, dances, and galas, and severely restricted attendance at funerals and weddings. The order included church services.

However, some churches in B.C. have defied the order, including the Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove.

READ MORE: Police warned Langley church will face more fines for in-person worship: court documents

Buildings that are places of worship in B.C. get an automatic statutory property tax exemption, but the property around the place of worship – including parking lots and open land – can get a further permissive tax exemption. That exemption is the one that could be affected by Richter’s motion.

Township administrator Mark Bakken was asked about the potential legalities of Richter’s motion, and he confirmed that it is up to local governments whether they want to give permissive tax exemptions or not.

“The grant is not within anyone’s rights to obtain,” Bakken said. The Township could eliminate it for all properties if it wanted, and some communities have, he said.

Other councillors were broadly supportive of the idea.

“I don’t believe this motion says we’re going to censor what you’re saying, how you’re saying it,” said Coun. David Davis, who noted that there are virtual and parking lot church gatherings taking place within the bounds of the health orders. “It’s just saying we can’t support a tax deduction if you are disobeying the head medical ministry.”

“I’ve been disappointed by the action of some of the groups in our com that have chosen to disregard the orders that have come from the ministry,” noted Coun. Blair Whitmarsh, saying he was also supportive of the general idea.

Coun. Petrina Arnason was one councillor who raised the issue of a court challenge over the order, including a possible Charter of Rights challenge.

“There are unfortunately groups that would like that to happen,” she said.

After some debate, Richter suggested sending the motion to Township staff for a look at the final wording and any legal implications. The vote passed with Coun. Bob Long opposed.

The motion is expected to come back at a future council meeting for a vote after staff have reviewed it.

CoronavirusLangleyLangley TownshipReligion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

.
LETTER: People must change their actions to slow global warming, Langley student writes

Grade 7 students at Gordon Greenwood Elementary were tasked with writing about climate change.

.
LETTER: Glaciers disappearing faster than in previous decades, Langley student writes

Grade 7 students at Gordon Greenwood Elementary were tasked with writing about climate change.

Prince Philip and then Princess Elizabeth – then married only four years and heir to the throne – waved to thousands who gathered in Fort Langley in Oct. 26, 1951 to see the royal couple. (Langley Centennial Museum archives/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langleyites bid adieu to Prince Philip

Local historians and the Trinity Western University president share thoughts and memories

President of the West Coast Fine Arts Show, Brian Croft, said pandemic restrictions necessitated a shift to an entirely online event this year, running until April 30. (File photo)
The West Fine Art Show shifts to an online-only event amid tighter health orders

Website version retains the flavour of the annual live exhibition

Keith Gibson of Preston GM with a Chevrolet Bolt. Electric cars made up almost 10 per cent of new light vehicle sales in B.C. last year, the government says. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
More electric cars, charging stations coming to Langley

Car dealers and local governments are prepping for an EV future

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Attorney General covers housing, homelessness and justice reform in Surrey Zoom

‘I think it would be really great to hold some sessions in Surrey,’ Eby says of legislative assembly

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(File photo)
Youths confront man seen masturbating while walking his dog

Police say it happened Thursday (April 8) on walking path in Surrey

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

Sunset Manor, an assisted living facility in Chilliwack owned by the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Chilliwack, pictured here in October 2020, had its third COVID-19 outbreak declared on April 9, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
3rd COVID outbreak at care home run by Chilliwack church known for opposing vaccinations

30-bed Sunset Manor owned and operated by Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Chilliwack

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Most Read