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Church Refugees

March 14, 1988

Let me give some comments concerning the recent flap over the sheltering of refugees by some of the churches in the Los Angeles area. This is a humanitarian work upon the part of the churches which compels understanding and, indeed, the churches are really carrying on the historic rite of sanctuary in the 20th Century.

The assessor of Los Angeles County, John Lynch, properly asked for and received a well-reasoned opinion on the subject from counsel for the state Board of Equalization. The opinion is of some length and is a product of careful work with reference to the applicability of state and federal laws. Your readers should know that Lynch is merely following the advice given to him by the Board of Equalization.

Further, the question of church exemption is strictly a matter to be decided by the assessor alone and, thereafter, if there is some disagreement by one of the affected churches, an appeal may be made to the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles in this case.

It is quite easy for members of the Board of Equalization to rush into print with cheap, spontaneous opinions which may or may not be consistent with governing law. And it is a disservice to the assessor to criticize him for performing his duties by requesting legal advice from the Board of Equalization and then, presumably, relying upon it.

If church exemptions are endangered by the housing of refugees, it is not because of any personal viewpoint upon the part of an assessor or others. Rather, it is a result compelled by adherence to existing law, whether or not it is popular and whether we personally like it or not.

WILLIAM M. BENNETT

Member

State Board of Equalization

Sacramento

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