In the Decision rendered by Judge Platkin of Albany Supreme Court of New York against the Maetreum of Cybele some absolutely astounding logic was used in the ruling.
Apparently, and actually against established caselaw, providing “affordable housing” for women who probably otherwise be homeless or escaping abusive living situations is not charitable. Let’s look at that because in direct sworn testimony no fewer than three priestesses of the Maetreum told the court, verified by the introduction of our “housing contract” into evidence, that we do not charge individuals we house on an emergency basis at all and never ask them for money. Now that’s “affordable” isn’t it? Further, that anyone not housed on an emergency basis has signed an agreement stating their reason for living at the Maetreum is spiritual seeking in nature and that they have discussed those motives with one of the priestesses. In other words, clearly charitable works aren’t charity… that a written statement of spiritual intent is not religious.
Another point was that only a minimal part of the property is “dedicated exclusively to religious services”. Part is used to further the exempt activities of charitable housing of women in need, part is used to further educational work, specifically towards the Herstory of women and furtherance of the rights of women which happens to be part of our religious mission and also part of the exempt uses of a property under the section of New York law dealing with religious property tax exemption. And actually, once again in both sworn uncontested testimony during the trial, it was made clear that other than the rooms specifically used as bedrooms, the entire property is used in furtherance of our religious mission at all times.
Although no legal standard in New York, as far as my own research bears out, has ever been established by law or court decision as to how many members of a congregation are required to be a “legitimate” religion serving a legitimate “public benefit” apparently we do not have enough congregants. Once again in both sworn testimony and affidavits considered part of the evidence, it was established that our website receives more than 5 thousand hits each month, more than (at the time of the trial) 250 people following our postings on Facebook and hundreds of people have attended services at the Maetreum over the years, including a number of local women, women and men from all over the US, women from Europe, Australia and Canada, this somehow does not meet a standard that actually does not exist in law. Not to mention our New and Full moon celebrations average more participants than the Episcopal church not 300 yards from our property at their weekly services. They are exempt, we’re not worthy
The next point is astonishing in it’s alleged internal logic. That our services are somehow “irregualar” in formal ritual and that because “prayer, meditation or spiritual activities (are) common in many homes” this somehow translates to our doing so “falls short of demonstrating that the property’s actual use is in the furtherance of religion”. Read that one again…..it is amazing in it’s logic. Engaging in regular prayer, meditation AND spiritual activities are not practising religion? Because some secular households do so? This one alone rips the veil off of what is going on here. Nothing we do would be considered religious enough by this court, nothing at all when regular evening services are not practising religion. By the way, as to the irregular nature of our rituals, once again in both sworn direct testimony and evidence provided without being contested, the court was aware we hold regular, open to the public and announced services every single new and full moon as well as the four equinoxes and solstices. We have never skipped a single new or full moon in all the years we have been incorporated. That means roughly every two weeks there is a formal, open to the public ritual on the property in addition to our regular weekend activities virtually every weekend dedicated to some part of our religious mission. Our schedule of our “irregular” services is promoted on Facebook, normally on the large “church” style sign at the front of the property AND published on our website.
Also astounding in the decision was the claim of “the absence of comprehensive, on site religious duties for the priestesses” Our published organizational model which was introduced as evidence in direct form and as part of a book I wrote clearly outlines the duties of our priestesses even down to conflict resolution within the household, not to mention the myriad other duties spelled out… in detail. Further, in claiming a legal precedence we cited does not apply, the judge had to rule my own direct testimony was somehow suspect when it was not even challenged on cross examination! When the amount of personal time I spend was exactly the same as the Rabbi in that case, especially when you factor in time spent care-taking the property which has also been ruled by prior courts as part of exempt work.
The last point is simply unbelievable in it’s leaps of illogic. Because prior to the Maetreum acquiring the property, the group that donated the property to the Maetreum had planned to use it for the charitable purpose of providing housing for women (and transsexual women as well) in need and because I alone of the original purchasers of the property am also a priestess (with exactly zero remaining personal financial interest due to the law) that charitable use is somehow not only not charitable but also suspect! We actually were not allowed to address any use of the property outside the years 2009 through 2011 by the judge and he uses what the property was used for BEFORE it belonged to the Maetreum of Cybele, a legally incorporated entity separate from the prior owners, to rule against us!
Charity is not charity, prayer, meditation and spiritual activities are not religious, duties of clergy clearly spelled out are not spelled out, activities every week and formal ones every two weeks are “irregular”, some mythical standard of number of regular congregants was not met. We are a “legitimate” religion but actually exist to wrangle a tax exemption (not legitimate) I am personally a liar with no actual evidence provided to justify saying that. This is the basis of the decision when you parse the actual language beyond the wild and totally unsupported opinions of Dan Vincellete, attorney for Catskill in his closing alleged argument submitting in writing so as to avoid reaction. Arguments already found invalid, not accurate, not based on actual law, completely unsubstantiated and probably discriminatory by another Judge. I leave the motives behind this decision up to the speculation of my gentle readership.
BTW, the Goddess is pissed off. It’s not nice (or wise) to fool (with) Mother Nature you know.