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Taxation of Masonic Property

In a survey of 41 of the 49 Grand Jurisdictions made in 1932 the Masonic Service Association, Washington, D. C., summarized its findings:

Masonic property used wholly for fraternal purposes is tax free in 24 of the 41 Grand Jurisdictions. Where it is not used wholly for Masonic purposes it is tax free in 16 of 41 Jurisdictions. If it is partly commercial (as when rooms in a Masonic Temple are rented for offices and stores) it is tax free in 4 of the 41 Jurisdictions, but is taxed, or may be taxed, in 35, the "may be" accounting for the discrepancy in the figures. These figures may have changed during the decade since but on the whole they represent the meldence of taxation State by State.

The question has been in courts from 200 to 300 times in the majority of cases the legal arguments have hinged upon one or another, or both, of two questions: How shall Freemasonry be defined, and under what laws does the definition bring it; is it, for example, a religion, educational, charitable organization or note If a Masonic property is partly commercial, partly not should the whole of it be taxed; or only the commercially used portion? Masonic lawyers who have opposed taxation have had difficulty in their arguments because the Grand Body they represent has seldom possessed a legal definition of itself--perhaps because to do so would involve a formal and official definition of Freemasonry, which is something it prefers to avoid. In at least two States (and perhaps more) this difficulty has been circumvented by asking the State legislature to adopt a law covering Freemasonry by name. This would appear to be just and non-discriminatory because Freemasonry is sui generis and cannot be subsumed under any general classification. On the other side, members of legislatures who favor taxation of Masonic properties have difficulty with the fact that even if a Masonic Body receives rents or interest from endowments the money is not profit, goes into nobody's pocket, but is used for fraternal and benevolent purposes; and also they are in the dilemma of having to decide whether if they tax Masonic properties they ought not also to tax churches, and hospitals not owned by the State.

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