A decision by Christ Cathedral Church, 3350 Allegheny Ave., Columbus, Ohio to remove a Freedom From Religion Foundation billboard has had expensive consequences for the church.
Shortly after Columbus atheist Dylan Galos' "Coming Out of the Closet" billboard, stating "I can be good without God," went up in late June, Rev. Waymon Malone Jr. of Christ Cathedral Church said it had to go, and it was moved to a new location. The church owns the property the billboard company was leasing near its parking lot.
After finding no record the Church paid property taxes for this commercial use of the property, FFRF sent a letter July 7 asking Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo II to investigate. FFRF further inquired in an Aug. 1 letter to Mingo about the church-owned property at 407 Stelzer Road that is directly behind the billboard. It was purchased in 2006 for $550,000 and is receiving a tax exemption. Several private businesses are leasing most of the building. Teach & Learn Child Care, AMC Realty and AMC Transport, all with listed addresses at 407 Stelzer Road, are headed by Anthony Malone. FFRF does not know how Pastor Malone and Anthony Malone are related.
On Sept. 22, FFRF received confirmation that the property will now be fully taxed in 2011. After assessing the property value for 2011, the Franklin County Auditor determined the property to be for commercial use and valued at $735,300. In 2010, the property was assessed at $673,700, nearly all of it tax exempt, as it was listed as "a place of worship." The Church failed to pay about $1,645 due for 2010 (for a small portion then considered commercial), and now owes $1,900 including penalties. Commercial property taxes are expected to be more than $18,000. To date, the church has not submitted a new application for exemption and would need to provide evidence of exempt use.