Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in case of Appeal of Christian Literature Crusade, Inc. from the Decision of the Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, No. 71-3012.
Jerome B. Nulty, for appellant.
John F. Christie, III, with him High, Swartz, Roberts & Seidel, Robert J. Johnson and Butera & Detwiler, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Rogers.
We need not detail at length the assessment history of the 20 acres and the improvements thereon erected, owned by appellant since 1952, a portion of which has been declared to be taxable. Very briefly, it was all tax exempt until August, 1970, when it was removed from the exempt rolls and all placed on the rolls of taxables. On appeal, the Board for the Assessment and Revision of Taxes placed one of the buildings, known as the Community Building, and one acre of ground on the tax exempt rolls "due to its being used for religious purposes." On appeal, the lower court affirmed the tax exempt status of the Community Building and its one acre curtilage and, in addition, removed the Administration Building and three acres of ground as its curtilage from the tax rolls and placed them on the tax exempt rolls. This left six buildings, each with one acre of ground and approximately 11 acres of additional land on the tax rolls. This appeal followed.
There is no question but that appellant qualifies as an institution of purely public charity within the intendment of Section 2(a)(v) of Article VIII, of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The sole issue is whether the six remaining buildings and the remaining acreage qualify
as "real property of such institution which is actually and regularly used for the purposes of the institution" as required by the same constitutional provision. Further, this remaining portion of the property must qualify under the provisions of the General County Assessment Law, Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, Article II, Section 204, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-204 (Supp. 1974-1975), which provide that the grounds must be "thereto annexed and necessary for the occupancy and enjoyment of the same."
The facts are ably, briefly, and accurately summarized by Judge Henry of the court below as follows:
"The factual context is substantially undisputed. Christian Literature Crusade is a nonprofit corporation engaged primarily in the publication and distribution of literature propagating concepts of Christian religious thought. The organization is not affiliated with any particular religious sect, but publishes and distributes nondenominational Christian literature in the United States and in thirty-four (34) foreign countries. The Crusade was formed in 1941 in England as a branch of the World Evangelization Crusade, Inc., an organization established to train nondenominational Christian missionaries for work in other countries. The Crusade was incorporated as a separate entity in 1957. Its charter purpose is stated as follows:
'. . . to promote literacy programs, survey and distribute existing supplies of religious literature in any or all languages, organize the writing or translating of manuscripts and utilize all means of literature distribution in any part of the world as a service to missionary agencies.'
"The subject property contains approximately twenty (20) acres located along Pennsylvania Avenue in Whitemarsh Township. There are eight (8) buildings on ...