Lawrence Harmon (“Cultural institutions need to pay up,” Op-ed, Jan. 12) makes a good case that tax-exempt arts and cultural institutions that “elevate spirits” ought to make modest voluntary payments in lieu of property taxes, or PILOTs. He omits mention, however, of religious institutions, such as churches, temples, and mosques, that also aspire to elevate spirits. These institutions, too, enjoy tax-exempt status yet benefit from police, fire, roads, and other municipal services. As a minister, I also live in a tax-exempt church-owned parsonage and receive the benefit of an excellent school system for my family.
For those reasons and because some of our members question whether religious institutions should be tax-exempt at all, our church chooses to make an annual PILOT payment to the town of Bedford. While this $1,000 is a small token, it acknowledges that town services support our efforts to elevate spirits. While religious institutions, like other arts, cultural, and educational institutions, contribute to civic life, we are also in debt to the municipalities that serve us.