October 31, 2005

State Reverses Rejection of Church Umbrella Program

The pastor of Victory Baptist Church (Garret County) submitted notice to the Maryland Department of Education (MDE) that the church was going to operate an umbrella program for home school families. He included a copy of a card the church had received when the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (MDAT) had recognized its tax exempt status several years ago.

The MDE wrote back and told the pastor they would not list Victory Baptist as an umbrella sponsor because he had proved neither that the church was incorporated nor recognized as tax exempt by the MDAT.

HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff placed a conference call with the MDE’s attorney and two other MDE representatives. He explained that many churches—including Victory Baptist—are not incorporated, but this does not mean they are not a church. He also explained that churches are generally recognized as exempt for federal tax purposes even if they have not received formal recognition. He followed up with a detailed letter to the MDE.

Several days later, the MDE’s attorney called back and told Woodruff that they would list Victory Baptist as an umbrella program sponsor. The attorney said the MDE would not require the church to incorporate and would accept the previously-issued MDAT card as evidence of tax exempt status.