On Our Property Tax Battle
Please consider a donation to help us
with our legal defense costs by clicking the button above. All
donations are fully tax deductible. Catskill has spent in probable excess
of 200,000 dollars to deny our Constitutional rights at this point and
vowed to spend whatever it takes to continue to discriminate against
us. We are a poor order and rely on donations to keep fighting
for the rights of all minority religions. We cannot give in to
Despite the fact that the Town of Catskill offered no credible
theory in court for their continued denial of exemption, I was just
informed that the Maetreum of Cybele has been denied property tax
exemption for 2012 meaning another entire round in this ongoing
drama. The wheels of justice turn very slowly in Greene County,
New York. The actual trial was split between two days last
November and December but the final arguments in our court case still
have not been submitted at this time. They are supposed to be due
in about two weeks and then we will have to await the Judge's actual
decision after that. In the meantime we will once again have to
go to the Board of Review hearing later in May and almost certainly be
denied again and have to file yet another lawsuit against
Catskill. Despite claims to the press for several years that
Catskill did not question our legitimacy as a religion, the entirety of
their case was exactly that we were not a legitimate religion under the
IRS guidelines. Again despite the IRS recognition we are.
We proved in court we met every one of the IRS "fourteen points" for
determining what is or isn't a church
In review, the property in question is deeded to the Maetreum of
Cybele, the Maetreum is legally incorporated in New York as a religious
non-profit and the IRS has recognized our legal standing as both a
church and religious charitable organization under 501 (c)3. We
have a long history of charitable works including having just won
asylum for a woman from Nepal who we have been giving room and board to
for nine months now and charitable housing for two other women in need
for the past eight months. We have regular services at the full
and new moons on our grounds, a dedicated Temple on the grounds,
sponsor a number of Pagan events including our local Pagan Pride Day
event. We do more charitable works than the other three Christian
churches in our community combined.
At this point we have over ten thousand dollars in unpaid legal
fees from our years long fight for religious equality for all minority
religions and almost certainly will win our ongoing court case but we
need help with the finances. Catskill has spent somewhere in
excess of a quarter of a million dollars fighting our exemption
believing we could be forced out of the fight by outspending us.
Help us prove them wrong.
We finally had our day in court, two actually separated by three
weeks. A decision will not be handed down until sometime after
the beginning of March of 2012 which will fall after the deadline to
reapply for our exemption for 2012. The first day was taken up by
the testimony of Rev. Cathryn Platine for direct, cross examination and
re-direct. On Dec. 7'th was day two and the testimony of Dr.
Caillean McMahon. During her cross examination the Town
introduced a picture from her private facebook photo album of her cat,
Kevin, sitting in a box that was marked "Christmas 2008" taken at her
home in Erie Pa during a celebration with her Christian parents.
We were told by the Town that this was proof we were actually
Christians and not Pagans and therefore our religion is a sham.
The Town also tried to assert that putting "Occupy Catskill" on the
large sign in front of our property was a violation of IRS regulations
for 501(c)(3) churches prohibiting endorsement of political
candidates. The priestesses present and our attorney felt we more
than met the burden of proof. That burden had been shifted to us
at the last minute before the trial began in a decision handed down a
few weeks prior to the actual start of the trial. We have been
left financially broke by the legal expenses and owe our attorney
several thousands of dollars for her trial work and the upcoming
filings that will have to be made before a decision is rendered.
We badly need help raising this money as we are entering the winter
season without resources and currently are supporting three women in
need staying with us.
Attempts to reach a settlement both before day one in court and day
two were totally blocked by the attorney for Greene County who refused
any and all settlements that did not include all taxes levied to date
being paid. At the moment there is a court injuction against
foreclosure for the taxes levied for the years 2009 and 2010.
Taxes for 2011 are still open.
5/25/11 2011 Assessment Board of Review was last night
Right from the beginning the nature of this farce was apparent.
Although we were present long before the doors were unlocked, two
people had been pre-signed in before us in an open violation of open
meeting requirements. We were represented by our new attorney who
informed the Board that, among other things, having granted us the
exemption in 2006 and then withdrawing it placed the burden of proof on
them and that was a burden they could never reach given the facts that
had been presented over the past five years to them. They were
instructed that they absolutely do not have the legal right to decide
if we are "legitimate" or not under the Constitution or New York law.
When she introduced the latest article in the Daily News where
acting town supervisor, Patrick Walsh, clearly stated they would
continue to fight us to prevent other "illegitimate" and "isolated"
from pursuing their legal and constitutional rights. At that
point Jeanette Pleugh loudly proclaimed "we don't believe anything in
the press". Somehow I thing the judge in our case will
think otherwise. Our attorney instructed the Board that all prior
submitted material from prior years was part of our appeal this year
and then strongly advised them to read Judge Pulver's recent decision.
The person before us took 16 minutes to present his case. Our
attorney spoke for about seven minutes and then asked me to address the
Board. Before I could finish my first sentence I was interrupted
by Ms. Pleugh and told in a very angry and confrontational way
that there was a time limit on speaking and I was near it's end.
She did this last year as well and just as in the prior year, no
other person appearing before the Board was told there was a time
limit. Our attorney confronted Ms. Pleugh on the clearly uneven
and unequal treatment I had just been subjected to. Finally I was
allowed to speak, but rather than speak on what I had planned to, our
use of the property, I simply told them that two different lawyers had
now instructed them that they do not have any legal right to rule on
our religion as legitimate, that I had appeared for five years now
before them and if that did not demonstrate our sincerity, I had no
idea what would and that we would not give up this fight under any
The is literally no chance they will not once again deny our
exemption and once again, will not give an actual reason. So be
it, when we are officially notified their denial, we will immedately
file our third lawsuit in court. This will also eventually become
a Federal case, most likely both a civil and criminal one.
4/25/11 Town of Catskill acting
admits the Town is fighting for the right to discriminate against us
In an interview
with Daily Mail reporter Colin De Vries,
acting Town Supervisor, Patrick Walsh clearly
stated that if
the town didn’t pursue the case, it may open the door to
isolated religious groups to pop up and claim exemptions.
the Constitution, forget freedom of religion, forget equal protection
under the law, Catskill's Town Council alone get to decide which
religions are legitimate and which are not. Walsh went one
further and declared the Cybeline Revival illegitimate. The
of Catskill has apparently indicated a willingness to break the Town
budget to discriminate on the basis of religion when they were
unwilling last year to fight the demands of Wal-Mart citing the legal
costs of doing so. There can be no doubt that Catskill feels
can win by outspending a poor group of spiritual women and intimidate
any other religious minority from seeking their legal rights under New
York and Federal law, they have now stated so clearly and on the
record. A reminder, the Maetreum of Cybele is fully
the US IRS as a legal religious charitable organization under tax code
501c3 and by the State of New York as the same. The Maetreum
Cybele is legally incorporated in New York as a church. The
Maetreum of Cybele has an actual traceable history long pre-dating
Christianity and in fact was for 500 years the only religion recognized
as "official" by the Roman Empire. Even the famed Vatican was
named after the Cybelines. In Latin it means seers and the
Vatican hill was the hill of the seers. We were those seers
was named after, our Roman Phrygianum the first construction on the
Vatican. Questioning our "legitimacy" is thus on a par with
questioning whether or not Judaism is a legitimate religion.
is straight out religious bigotry. We are exactly the wrong
tradition to challenge on the basis of history.
Walsh also re-visited "land use". Judge Pulver
out that use of the property as a Convent/Abbey as grounds for denial.
Last May, at the Catskill Board of Assessment Review hearing
(part of the process prior to filing a court action) Rev. Mother
Cathryn Platine extended an invitation to the entire Board of Review to
tour the Maetreum property to see for themselves how the property is
dedicated to religious purposes. That invitation was rudely
declined and dismissed. Other than the regularly scheduled
and safety inspection last fall, no representative of the Town of
Catskill has asked for or visited the Maetreum of Cybele since 2007
when our routine renewal of our property tax exemption was first
denied. Any claims on their part as to our use of the
has no basis in any facts.
Pagans, we have kept this fight going against all odds up to
We need your support and donations to keep it up.
now no longer any question that this is about Pagan religions having an
equal legal standing with the so called mainstream religions and this
is at least as important an issue as the Pentacle marker for Veterans
graves fight. Catskill clearly believes they can bully us
we are poor, we cannot let them win this. We are a poor group
that struggles just to pay the daily bills, this legal battle has
drained our resources and the Town knows this.
We learned this past weekend that the Town of Catskill
Judge's decision to the New York Appellate Court. We believe
is their last ditch effort to avoid having to legally grant our
exemption for 2011 as the deadline for them to decide on that is fast
approaching and the decision left no grounds for denial since the Board
of Assessment Review refused the invitation to tour our property last
year meaning they have no direct knowledge of how we use our property,
literally the only wiggle room they had.
Maetreum was granted a
court ordered "stay" from all foreclosure proceedings until the
resolution of it's legal actions against the Town of Catskill
In a seventeen page decision on the motion of the Town of
to dismiss our case and our counter motion for summery judgment the
Maetreum was granted a stay from any tax foreclosure action by the
county. In three separate places in that decision the Judge
commented directly on the clear discriminatory nature
of the stated basis for our denial in language that chided the Town
attorney for vague nature of his complants and claims.
the judge, one by one and with cited precedences denied the legitimacy
of all the rationale offered by the Town attorney for denial of our
exemption leaving them without a basis for having done so. It
fell short of actual summery judgment, just short. The Judge
clear that he expects us to show the religious use of our property in
court but also indicated he is already aware we do so and are a
legitimate religion. The Judge basically handed us a ready
Federal case against the Town of Catskill if we decide to proceed in
that manner as well as more than enough to re-open our complaint with
the State Attorney Generals Office of open discrimination by the Town
of Catskill. By avoiding mention of the Religious Land Use
Institutionalize Persons Act of 2000, he preserved our use of that as
basis of a Federal court case. In short, he communicated that
Town would be well advised to settle with us now. On Monday
will have to file for our 2011 property tax exemption with the Town
Assessor. That filing will include citations from this
Given that, if we are once again denied we will proceed
to Federal Court and file the action with the State AG's office which
should trigger a full scale investigation into the Town of Catskill.
Yesterday an excellent
article appeared in the New York Times
I would like to address comments made by Mr. Vincelette to the Times
reporter, specifically that the Town has not questioned the legitimacy
of our religion. In motion after motion for the past three
and in each application for property tax exemption before that Mr.
Vincelette has done exactly that. Over and over he has
our very basis as a religion including in a marathon deposition of
myself of over four hours where he even questioned, line by line, every
penny in our financial statements and that we have not published in
book form our thealogy. He called our legitimacy into
because we do not have a "Sunday School" program/. He has
required me personally to provide proof of my own religious credentials
over and over and over. Now he claims the refusal to grant
exemption is solely because our property is not used for "religious
purposes" except incidentally, that it is merely a residence.
Vincelette has made these claims to two other reporters, none of them
bought it because all three have conducted their interviews on our
property. They saw for themselves the nature of our
they learned first hand we continually take in women in need.
This does not happen in a mere residence.
The facts are these. We have spent considerable
constructing a permanent temple on the back side of the property
complete with concrete columns we have cast and erected ourselves and
benches we cast ourselves. Every public space in our home is
decorated everywhere you look with images meant to invoke Goddess
consciousness cross culturally. In 2003, long before we
incorporated or sought exempt status, we researched and wrote the "Rule
of the Women of Cybele". This document is designed
to provide a
framework for women living together in a spiritual monastic community.
It was first published on our website in 2004, again before
incorporated and before we first sought property tax exempt status.
We live by it. It was recovered with the aid of
nums from their own "Rule of the Women of St. Benedict". In
other words, we have been structuring our living arrangements at the
Phrygianum in essentially the exact same model used by a Catholic
Convent. Mr. Vincelette knows this, he has been handed or
or served countless copies of our organizational models that include
this. He is flat out lying. We have done charitable
since the original four women bought the property, we've never stopped
taking in women in need. No other religious group in our
does this, not one. No one is paid by the Maetreum of
one. We donate all our resources, time and efforts available
the Maetreum and take nothing material in return. None of the
four women who deeded their interest in our property can ever again
profit from that property in any fashion. That is State and
Federal law. By law, if for some reason, the Maetreum ceases
exist, all of it's assets, including the property, must go to another
Pagan group or other similar religious charitable organization.
Each and every week something of a religious nature is
our Phrygianum, often multiple events. Women and sometimes
come to stay with us for spiritual retreats on a regular basis.
We do not charge for any of this. Every night we do
"Nightly Praise" before one of the altars in our home as is part of our
Rule. The Catskill Board of Assessment Review
somewhat rudely declined an invitation to tour our property to see for
themselves how it is used. In other words, this claim we are
using our property for religious purposes is based solely on the biased
opinion of Mr. Vincelette himself and has no other basis, real or
imagined. We have been informed we will need to defend the
legitimacy of our religion in court in clear violation of Federal law
and as an open insult to an IRS recognized religious charity and one
incorporated under New York Religious Incorporation law.
Our research last fall of fully exempt properties within the
of Catskill revealed multiple properties listed as "parsonages" as
being fully exempt. In other words, properties used just as
housing for clergy. There was even a picnic ground, listed as
such, owned by a Christian church that was fully exempt. So
for Mr. Vincelette's claims that the exemption laws are applied
equally. The man is a liar, there is simply no other way to
it. This case is and always has been about pure religious
prejudice and denial of our first amendment rights.
This insane vendetta by the Town of Catskill and it's
Daniel Vincelette is now entering the fifth year. Currently
have two separate legal actions filed and active against them.
have complied with all discovery requests made of us and been
completely upfront but this is not mutual. Catskill have
almost all document requests even those for documents that are supposed
to be part of the public record. They have fought the
of the Town Assessor, threatened our attorney with phony sanction
complaints, perjured themselves and subbourned perjury.
in a deposition of the individual who the Town website identifies as
the chair of the Assessment Board of Review, and was
such, we learned the town attorney deliberately hid the fact he was not
for the year 2010. Such simple questions as "do you
that the Maetreum of Cybele is a religion" brought objections that we
needed to define the word "religion". When our attorney
to do so, yet another objection to the Federal definition!
has been typical of "Mr." Vinceletti throughout this entire ordeal.
This man maintains that he and he alone gets to decided if we
a legitimate religion. According
to the sworn testimony of Roger Moore yesterday, who has been on the
Catskill Board of Assessment Review since before this began,
one single non-profit or religious group has had to fight for their
legally mandated property tax exemption but us. Not a single
In 2009 the stated reason given for denial of our exemption
zoning and building code violation. When I checked with the
Enforcement Office for the Town, I found they have considered us fully
compliant on fire and safety codes and nothing at all about building
code violations, ever. Additionally we were inspected for
and safety this fall and passed with flying colours unlike most of the
other local businesses.
I came home yesterday to find this in the mail......
Mind you, we have a written agreement from the Greene County
Attorney NOT to do this until the legal action is final just a couple
of months old and the Judge ordered no foreclosure actions be taken on
this case back in the fall of 2009. For more than a year the
Catskill Attorney has filed specious motion after motion to delay this
being heard and forced a legal action that was supposed to be a simple
judicial decision to a full blown trial with all the expenses that
entails in the belief they can cost us out of the case. Our
fees are now in excess of 15,000 dollars as a result.
financial help to go
on.........please, please, please make a donation from the main page
via paypal. You can also help by sending us a notarized
if you have found spiritual value in our website and work.
Such an affidavit should state your name, that you are over
years old and swear that what you say is true to the best of your
knowledge. Mail to:
Maetreum of Cybele
3312 Route 23A
Palenville, NY 12463
The latest news story about us is here
I'm adding this page to provide updates to our legal battle
the Town of Catskill. Since 2007 Catskill has refused to
our legally mandated property tax exemption citing different reasons
each year. At this point we have two separate legal actions
against them, one for the tax year 2009 and the other for this year,
2010. We are a Federally recongized 501 c3 religious charity
exempt status with the State of New York as well and we are
incorporated under New York Religious Incorporation law. Our
property is the worldwide home of the Cybeline Revival, titled in the
name of the incorporated religion, the home of the Cybeline Priestesses
and maintained as a womans spirituality centre as well. Our
religion requires us to do charitable works which we have done from
before the transfer of the property to the Maetreum of Cybele mostly in
the form of emergency housing for women in need. Currently we
have a woman staying with us who met that requirement have come from an
abusive relationship with injures and six cats who had no money or
place to stay. We have housed many many women in need over
years. We would also like to be able to start a food pantry
our area in the near future and we are the hostesses of Pagan Pride Day in
Eastern upstate New York.
We basically pay our own way with our limited resources and
property tax is approximately 1/3 of our annual budget so it is a very
very big deal being denied our exemption. Believe it or not
of the reasons the Town attorney has given for denial was actually our
charitable housing work! This is directly in opposition to
part of New York law dealing with mandated exempt property classes.
In court, the attorney for the town announced that the real
reason for the denial was not the money, but to prevent "opening the
floodgates" to other minority religions. The town code
enforcement officer told me in front of witnesses that we were being
targeted for rigourous code enforcement because "you are a minority and
didn't keep your head down" or in other words, insisted on our legal
rights under the law. These two specific occurances basically
erased all doubt that this is about religious discrimination.
other "reason" being given is zoning violations and building code
violations. Our Maetreum has been in continuous use as an
inn/lodge since 1890, zoned commerical as an Inn/Lodge and we have done
no work that required a building permit. None of this seems
matter to the Town even when they have been informed this reason is in
direct violation of Federal law, specifically the Religous Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. Their goal at this
is to force us to apply for a change of use permit then require that a
130+ year old sound historic structure be brought into full modern code
requirements, basically impossible, so they can condemn the property
and force us to leave.
Recently we learned the Town may be actually able to
our property despite the fact the matter remains in court because of a
vuglarity of New York law unless we pay all the "back" taxes in
ligitation. Our legal fees have been staggering despite
very reasonably priced attorney. We will win this case
if we don't get priced out of it so we need all the help the Pagan
community can give us. All donations are fully tax
You can paypal a donation to centralhouse @
gallae.com (remove spaces) or snail mail to:
Maetreum of Cybele
3312 Route 23A
Palenville, New York 12463
We have three plus acres in the Catskill Mountains with an
Inn and both an outdoor Temple and a generic circle available to other
Pagan groups to use.
This battle is of vital importance to all Minority religions
basic religious freedom issue. We are one of the few brick
mortar Pagan Temples in the US but others will come and be faced with
the same out and out religious bigotry unless a message is sent that we
will demand equal treatment with the so called "mainstream" religious
groups. News stories about our plight are here