Court Rules In Favor Of Church in Parsonage Case - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Court Rules In Favor Of Church in Parsonage Case

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Bay County, Fla. -

It's a ruling almost a decade in the making. Back in 2004, Bay County pastor Markus Bishop argued to the county property appraiser that his parsonage was tax exempt. The county disagreed. Now, after years of litigation, the courts are siding with the Pastor Bishop.

The home, owned by Faith Christian Family Church for their pastor Markus Bishop, is located in the gated 'Preserve on the Bay' subdivision in Panama City Beach.

It's currently valued at $3.2 million dollars. In 2004, it was valued at as much as $5 million. Back then, Pastor Bishop wanted to get a tax exemption on the property as a parsonage, which by definition is a church house provided by a church for it's pastor.

However, the property appraiser at the time Rick Barnett said the home was not a parsonage. The two sides were locked in the legal debate for years. Meanwhile, back taxes on the property since then have built up to more than $400,000. Just last week, judge Hence McClellan ruled that the home was a parsonage and therefore 'exempt from ad valorem taxation,' meaning pastor Bishop and the church do not owe the back taxes.

Attorney's on the other side disagree with the decision.

"It's clear the judge thought long and hard about the case, and wrote a detailed and lengthy and well reasoned order," Attorney Jeffrey Whitton said.

"I don't believe, as we argued to the court, that the simple occupation of the property by someone that happens to be a minister is a religious use."

On the phone today, pastor bishop told News 13 that he is quote "thankful for the judge's decision." He asks people to continue praying for everyone involved in the situation. Meanwhile, Whitton says that this may not be over, as their legal team is considering an appeal.