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2011 Form 990

Updated 6/22/2011
3ABN sued
over Tommy!

Added 3/14/2010
Can 3ABN Survive?

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Judge Rejects
Plea Deal

Updated 4/2/2010
Tommy Shelton

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The Actual Lawsuit
IRS Criminal Investigation

3ABN's Property Tax Case Appeal

Reply to Appellees' Opposition to Its Appeal Brief

Part One

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With still no hint from Plaintiff Danny Shelton that he intends to back off of the lawsuit against, we venture to post this document pertaining to 3ABN's property tax appeal, a document that just may have a bearing on the lawsuit, given the claims it makes regarding the oversight responsibilities and independent nature of 3ABN's board, the amount of 3ABN's assets, and the issue of private inurement.

Typographical errors may actually be copied from the original.

We post this reply of 3ABN in two parts, the first part perhaps not having much of interest. with certain sentences of interest in the second part being highlighted.

Part One of 3ABN's Reply












Case No.: No. 2004-MR-0015



Appellant Three Angels Broadcasting Network, Inc. hereby replies to the three opposition briefs filed by Appellees in this case. In seventy-seven pages of briefing, the opposition has raised numerous points and issues, many of which are peripheral or unrelated to the central issues of this case. Three Angels will limit its response to three main points:

First, that despite their multiplicity of points in contention, the opposition recognizes that the most important and central issue in this case is whether the subject properties are used for religious purposes. Further, the opposition recognizes that the judge made inappropriate rulings and remarks relating to Three Angels' religious purposes in dealing with this central question. But the opposition themselves are inconsistent in asserting whether television broadcasting can ever be a religious activity.

[page 2]

Second, the Appellees also recognize the importance of the factors set down in the Inter-Varsity case. They badly misread, however, the record in applying that standard to this case in relation to Three Angels' corporate structure, scope of its missionary activities, and the relevance of its revenue and assets.

Third, there are a number of issues peripheral to this case, such as board makeup, and royalty payments, that Appellees try to make far too much of on a far too limited record. Indeed, the hearing officer's findings on these points are supported by essentially no evidence, and should be reversed. Nothing Appellees raise should prevent this Court from reversing the ruling below and granting Three Angels a property tax exemption.

  I. The central question in the case is whether the programming and activities carried out by Three Angels at the subject property are religious in nature.

  A. The Board of Review acknowledges that the hearing officer made inappropriate rulings regarding the religious nature of Three Angels' programming, but dismisses these rulings as dicta, which they are not.

Appellee Board of Review recognizes that the hearing officer made inappropriate comments and rulings regarding the religious nature of Three Angels' programming, and is thus forced, in defending the decision, to describe these as "dicta." This tactic occurs in the context of all the Appellees agreeing on one thing: the central issue in this case is whether the subject "property was used primarily for religious purposes." (School Districts Brief. p. 13, hereafter "SD #"); See, (Board of Review Brief, p. 2, 16-17, hereafter "BR#"); (Department of Revenue Brief, p. 12, 14, hereafter "DR #). The question, of course, is whether Three Angels' activities and programming meet the standard of religious use and purpose.

[page 3]

Some of the opposition wants to begin and end the discussion of religious purpose with the case of The People v. Deutsche Gemeinde, which talks in terms of "worship, Sunday schools and religious instruction."1 DR 12; SD 14. But the more informed Appellees recognize that this dated case is merely a starting point, and that these uses are "not inclusive" but rather "illustrative of the nature of religious use." BR 19.

The point the Board of Review attempts to obscure is that the hearing officer inappropriately ruled that Three Angels programming was not religious. The Board is perfectly correct in saying that it is "improper to evaluate the propriety of religious beliefs." BR 24. But the Board erroneously claims that the hearing officer's decision was not "based on the content of the programming or publications." Id. In a footnote, the Board attempts to "clarify" this obvious misstatement by suggesting that the hearing officer's comments about Three Angels' programming being "lifestyle" and "not a religion" was "simply dicta." BR 24.

Why is this merely dicta? The hearing officer did not say it was dicta. She was not writing hypothetically or in the alternative or giving a separate basis for her decision. This is a very important point, because by the Board of Review's own standards, if this statement by the hearing officer was not dicta, then her ruling was legally improper and should be reversed.

Because this claim of "dicta" is so important, the broader context of the hearing officer's statement must be quoted: "Applicant is advocating a way of life, but it is a lifestyle that applicant favors, not a religion. Leasing or otherwise using property to promote a lifestyle and to market merchandise does not qualify as a use of property for primarily religious purposes." Notice of Decision, p. 31-32.

1 249 Ill.132, 136-37 (1911).

[page 4]

The officer's statement goes to the central issue in the case, is the activity religious. She ruled that the programming involved was not religious, but was a "lifestyle," and thus the property was not used "for primarily religious purposes." Far from being dicta, this question of the content of the programming and whether it was religious becomes the central point in the case. Thus, by Appellee's own standards, the hearing officer's ruling was inappropriate, unlawful, and should be reversed.

  b. Appellees claim that a television broadcaster can never qualify as a religious ministry. This shows the double standard at work in denying Three Angels' discovery on other broadcasting ministries in Illinois.

According to the Board of Review, the hearing officer's decision below stands for the proposition that "television broadcasting was not a religious activity in and of itself, regardless of the content of the broadcasts." BR 1. Indeed, so certain is the Board of Review that religious content cannot turn television broadcasting into a religious activity that it accepts and asserts that Three Angels programming "content was religious." BR 24. It concludes, however, "the content does not make the act of publishing or television broadcasting a religious activity." BR 24.

While we agree with the Board that Three Angels' programming content is religious, the hearing officer below did not do so. She did not, at least in part, because to have done so would reveal the double standard that the Board of Review has walked into. That is, that there are other religious broadcasters in Illinois who are treated as religious ministries. To assert the rule, as the Board of Review does, that Three Angels cannot get a religious exemption because no television broadcasters can qualify for one, no matter what the content, merely demonstrates the unequal application of the law, in violation of equal protection and laws against religious discrimination. a

[page 5]

The Board of Review should well be aware of this inconsistency, as they later assert that Three Angels should not be allowed to discover and submit evidence relating to other Illinois religious broadcasters. They allege that as each year and each case is unique, "it makes no difference if another television broadcaster received a property tax exemption." BR 37.

The rule being asserted against Three Angels is that "no television broadcaster' can receive an exemption, regardless of content. The Board argues that broadcasting is an inherently "commercial" activity, like baking, or farming, or paper-making, that can never be considered 'religious." One could argue with this list of "secular" activities, as there are no doubt monastery vineyards, church cafeterias, and perhaps even religious publishing-house paper mills that qualify as 'religious."

But one need not agree with these points to accept that it is indeed highly relevant, for constitutional purposes, whether other Illinois religious broadcasters receive an exemption. Three Angels has the right to assert this claim, and should be given the opportunity for discovery and record-making on this point, should this Court choose not to directly reverse the decision below.2

II.  The Opposition also largely accept the applicability of Inter-Varsity factors, but misapply those factors.

As Appellees recognize, the case of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship v. Hollman,3is important in assessing this case. Both the briefs of the Board of Review and the School Districts spend significant space analyzing and applying the five prongs of the test from

2 The Board's contention that Three Angels has not provided the legal basis for their constitutional claims (BR 37) completely misses the point that Three Angels is requesting further fact-gathering on this issue, as it has been denied basic discovery on this issue. Once Three Angels has developed the facts, it will be in a position to flesh out its legal arguments on this point. In the meantime, it is sufficient, as was done in the appeal brief, to reference the equal protection and religious clauses of the Illinois State and federal constitutions which forbid disparate treatment of similarly situated religious organizations.

3 62 Ill.App.3d 798 (2nd Dist. 1978).

[page 6]

this case. BR 32-35; SD 21-23. They err, however, in dealing with at least three issues under this test: First, they erroneously claim that the corporate structure of Three Angels disqualifies it from receiving a religious exemption; second, they ignore the scope of missionary activity associated with Three Angels; and third, they misconstrue the significance of Three Angels revenue and assets.

  A.   Both religious corporations AND not-for-profit corporations can qualify for the religious property tax exemption.

The School Districts argue that because Three Angels has not organized under the Illinois Religious Corporations Act that it cannot qualify for the religious property tax exemption. SD 12-13. This is plainly wrong. A review of the Religious Corporations Act at 805 ILCS 110 shows that it is a very narrow Act, intended only for churches and groups involved in religious worship that have attached congregations. Many religious organizations do not fit in this narrow category; yet still have a religious purpose.

This is demonstrated by the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Evangelical Teachers Training Assoc., and the Congregation Sunday School cases, as none of the plaintiffs in these cases were houses of worship. In the first two cases mentioned, the applicants were described generally as "not-for-profit corporation[s]," and no mention is made of the religious organizations statute.4 The applicant in the latter case also could not qualify under the Religious Corporations Act, as the Illinois Supreme Court long ago said that the Act was only for church congregations and houses of worship, and not other types of religious organizations. Hamsher v. Hamsher, 23 N.E. 23 (Ill. 1890).

The property-tax-exemption statute is written more broadly than the Religious Corporations Act, however, and is not limited to property used merely for "religious

4 62 Ill.App.3d at 801; 118 Ill. App. 3d 21, 22.

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worship," but uses the broader phrase religious purposes. The School Districts are caught up in a technical form of organization that is not required by Illinois law. The only requirement is that Three Angels be a not-for-profit corporation, which it is, and that it has a charter setting out exclusively religious and charitable purposes, which it does.

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