Right now, church properties across the country are underutilised as a result of the government directions to slow the spread of Coronavirus. But churches (particularly those constructed in the last 30-40 years) typically have great car parking and large level spaces which can be easily adapted.
As the need arises (which is starting to happen now), church properties should be made available for COVID-19 testing stations. Apart from places of worship, there are not many properties that are better placed for this kind of activity.
Why would churches want to do this?
- It is a way to serve the community and the nation, at a time of crisis.
- It is a way for churches to be good stewards of real estate which may not be fully used for quite some time.
Reasons why churches might not want to do this:
- It would disrupt the ‘broadcast’ of online church; and/or
- Some churches might want to maintain access to church offices or gathering spaces (for those weddings and funerals, which can still happen in cut-down size).
Is it charitable?
Absolutely. Charities are required by law to use their assets solely to further their stated charitable purposes. It might seem that this use is not sufficiently ‘on purpose’ for a religious organisation. However, many various activities are an expression of faith. Churches hold car boot sales to connect with their communities. Plenty of other ancillary activities happen within religious organisations as part of its overall activities. This kind of activity is easily characterised as an expression of religious observance (eg, “love thy neighbour”).
Even if it was not strictly ‘religious’ in nature, it falls easily into the category of “other purposes beneficial to the community”. In our view no church would compromise any property tax exemptions by engaging in this kind of temporary use. Moores has been able to obtain confirmation from some revenue authorities that confirm this view.
What happens now?
Many church congregations are autonomous in relation to the day-to-day use of church property. Take steps to make connection between congregations and your relevant church property trust. And although Moores is not a broker for finding COVID-19 testing station sites, we are willing to help in any way we can.
Please get in touch if your church is in a position to “love thy neighbour” in this way. Do not hesitate to contact us here.