Magazine article The Christian Century

Israeli Tax Imperils Lutheran Hospital. (News)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Israeli Tax Imperils Lutheran Hospital. (News)

Article excerpt

Christian medical and educational organizations based in Jerusalem, and serving a desperately poor West Bank Palestinian population, could be forced to scale back on their operations and even pay millions of dollars in back taxes under a new Israeli tax policy.

The Lutheran World Federation and its U.S. affiliate, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, are appealing to the Bush administration to intervene in an Israeli move to alter the tax-exempt status of church-affiliated institutions, including Jerusalem's Augusta Victoria Hospital, which recently was hit with a huge tax bill.

The hospital, one of the few modern medical service centers for West Bank Palestinians, would be forced to pay an extra $350,000 annually in an "employers tax" and up to $700,000 in back taxes under a recent court decision. "We as a church in the United States are planning to appeal to the U.S. government to intervene with the government of Israel so that the tax case basically is dropped," said Mark Brown, the ELCA's governmental-affairs official in Washington.

Brown said Mark Hanson, the ELCA's presiding bishop, had raised the issue recently with senior officials in Congress, the State Department and the White House. "The Bush administration knows that alleviation of human suffering is a key part of the success of the road map," Brown said. …

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