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Good Faith Ministries v. County of

March 8, 2011

GOOD FAITH MINISTRIES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF
NORTHUMBERLAND, DEFENDANT.



Hon. John E. Jones III

Hon. Martin C. Carlson

MEMORANDUM

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:

This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson (Doc. 23), filed on February 16, 2011, which recommends that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 9) be granted. Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R on March 7, 2011. (Doc. 24). Accordingly, this matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will adopt the Magistrate Judge's R&R in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

Pro se Plaintiff Good Faith Ministries("Plaintiff" or "Good Faith Ministries") filed this action on September 7, 2010 against Defendant Northumberland County, Pennsylvania ("Defendant" or "Northumberland County"). Good Faith Ministries claims that Northumberland County engaged in discriminatory and wrongful tax assessment practices. In particular, Plaintiff is aggrieved by tax bills received from Northumberland County for properties owned by it located in Shamokin and Coal Township, Pennsylvania. After inquiring into these assessments, Plaintiff claims it was told that the properties must be used as 'places of worship' in order to be tax-exempt. Plaintiff argues that Defendant is discriminating against it by taxing these properties, noting that two churches in Sunbury, Pennsylvania have been granted tax-exempt status even though they derive income from third-party use of their parking lots.

Plaintiff asserts that this Court has jurisdiction over the matter under the First Amendment. Plaintiff argues that, under federal law, Plaintiff's properties "should all be tax exempt and need not be used for a religious or non-profit purpose, nor does it need to comprise a building structure to qualify as a place of prayer and worship." (Complaint, p. 3). Plaintiff asks that the Court grant it tax exemption on all of its properties, suspend all present and future tax collections against the properties, compensate Plaintiff for the full value of all properties seized by Defendant for property taxes, and award it $1,000,000.00 for each year that its properties have been taxed by Northumberland County. (Complaint, p. 4).

As noted above, on February 16, 2011, Magistrate Judge Carlson issued the instant R&R (Doc. 23) recommending the following with respect to the Defendant's pending Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 9):

(1) that the Motion to Dismiss be granted and the Complaint be dismissed because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the Plaintiff's claims, or, alternatively, that;

(2) that the Court abstain from exercising jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to well-settled principles of comity.

As noted, Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R, arguing that this matter should proceed in this Court, asserting that it is a civil rights claim and a property taxation claim.

We now turn to an analysis of the R&R, in view of the Plaintiff's objections.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Review of Magistrate ...


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