Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in case of In Re: Laymen's Week-End Retreat League of Philadelphia, No. 480 Misc. Term, 1973.
Thomas A. Riley, Jr., with him John C. Snyder and Lentz, Riley, Cantor, Kilgore & Massey, Ltd., for appellant.
Milton Apfelbaum, Assistant County Solicitor, with him John S. Halsted, County Solicitor, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 21 Pa. Commw. Page 176]
The Laymen's Weekend Retreat League of Philadelphia appeals to us from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County which affirmed the Chester County Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes (Board). The Board had determined that, out of the total assessed value of $362,488 for all land and buildings owned by the Retreat League, it was entitled to an exemption of $143,772, leaving the total assessed value of the taxable property at $218,716. The Retreat League claims that it is entitled to an additional exemption of $214,164 attributable to the buildings which have not been exempted by the Board. No exemption is sought with respect to 56.9 acres of the land assessed at $4,552.
The Retreat League was founded by laymen in 1922 with the purpose, as expressed in its charter, "to conduct weekend retreats as a purely public charity for the spiritual advancement of persons attending the retreats without regard to their race, creed or condition of life." In pursuit of that objective, the Retreat League maintains 151 acres in Chester County, upon which are located three dormitory buildings, a multi-purpose building, a dining room and an office building along with numerous lawns, walkways, roads and wooded areas which contain various shrines and statues, almost all of which are
[ 21 Pa. Commw. Page 177]
religious in nature. Upon this property, the Retreat League conducts retreats on 48 weekends of the year. Occasionally, retreats are conducted during the week as well. As described mostly by John N. Cackley, the Administrator of the Retreat League, the activities in which the retreatants are given the opportunity to meditate tional exercises including prayer at Mass, the Stations of the Cross and the saying of the Rosary. In addition, the retreatments are given the opportunity to meditate and, if they desire, to consult with others. Thereby the proper atmosphere is created in order that the retreatants may reflect upon their spiritual condition along with their goals in life and that they may refresh their faith in themselves, in their fellow men and in God.
No fees are charged to any of the guests for the costs of their stay, although donations are solicited. All other income is generated through contributions. The entire revenue collected by the Retreat League is used to operate its facilities.
The Board apparently granted an exemption here for the actual places of religious worship located on the Retreat League's property but denied the additional exemption which was sought by the Retreat League in the claim of its status as a public charity.
In Laymen's Week-End Retreat League of Philadelphia v. Butler, 83 Pa. Superior Ct. 1 (1924), our Superior Court considered the same issues presently before us in a case involving the same institution. Judge Keller there pointed out the constitutional source for the religious exemption as well as for the charitable exemption. Article 8, Section 2(a) of ...