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ECHR Rules for sects in tax-exemption cases against France

Kader Kadem | 13:53 | 0 Comments
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled Thursday in favour of three sects - including the Mandarom de Castellane - bringing a judgement against France for violation of freedom of thought, conscience and religion.The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Thursday in favour of three sects, including the Mandarom de Castellane - bringing a judgement against France for violation of freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The decision in Strasbourg invalidated tax procedures brought against the sects, ordering France to pay 3 599 551 euros to the religious association Temple Pyramide, a sect known by the name Mandarom, for "property damage", 387 722 euros to the Evangelical Missionary Church and Eric Salaûn and 36 886 euros to the Chevaliers du Lotus d'or (Knights of the Golden Lotus).

Following tax assessment procedures, the first two groups (both officially dissolved in 1995) were able to recover more than 2.5 million euros and 37 000 euros respectively plus the application of a 60% tax on hand-to-hand gifts that had appeared in their accounts. The third claim was for 280 000 euros on similar grounds.

In all three cases, first brought to the European Court in 2007, the plaintiff associations invoked in particular Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." The associations alleged that the taxation of gifts to which they had been subjected infringed upon their right to demonstrate and exercise their freedom of religion.
The parties have three months to request a judicial review by the Grande Chamber for the ECtHR.
See the full judgments (in French):

The Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus
The Religious Association of the Pyramid Temple
The Evangelical Missionary Church and Salaûn

ECHR 036 (2013) 31.01.2013
Chamber judgments concerning France
The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing the following three Chamber judgments1, none of which is final. The judgments are available only in French.
The Religious Association of the Pyramid Temple/Association Cultuelle Du Temple Pyramide v. France (application no. 50471/07)

The Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus/Association Des Chevaliers Du Lotus D’Or v. France (no. 50615/07)
The Evangelical Missionary Church and Salaûn/Eglise Evangelique Missionnaire et Salaûn v. France (no. 25502/07)
In these three cases the applicants relied, in particular, on Article 9 (right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion), alleging that the fact that they had been required to pay tax on hand-to-hand gifts infringed their right to manifest and exercise their freedom of religion.

The Religious Association of the Pyramid Temple is a not-for-profit association which was set up on 3 April 1991 and dissolved on 10 August 1995 and the aim of which was the construction of a place of worship in Castellane (France). The Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus is a not-for-profit association set up in 1971 and dissolved on 16 September 1995. It was dedicated to the practice of a new religion known as Aumism. Following tax assessment procedures, sums of more than 2.5 million euros and 37,000 euros respectively were recovered from the associations in question, after the tax authorities’ inspection revealed gifts entered in their accounts. When the associations refused to declare the gifts, the authorities automatically imposed a tax rate of 60% in accordance with Article 757 of the General Tax Code, which states that hand-to-hand gifts are subject to gift tax. The associations were also ordered to pay an 80% surcharge.

The applicants in the last case are the association the Evangelical Missionary Church and its president, Éric Salaûn. Following an audit of its accounts and the imposition of tax on the hand-to-hand gifts which this brought to light, the administrative authorities considered that the association could not be classified as a “religious” association for the purposes of claiming the corresponding tax exemptions. The association was therefore obliged to pay more than 280,000 euros (automatic taxation at the 60% rate) to the Treasury.
Violation of Article 9 (in all three cases)

Just satisfaction: EUR 3,599,551 to The Religious Association of the Pyramid Temple, EUR 36,886 to The Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus and EUR 387,722 to The Evangelical Missionary Church and Salaûn (pecuniary damage), and EUR 49,568 The

Religious Association of the Pyramid Temple, EUR 10,000 to The Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus and EUR 55,000 to The Evangelical Missionary Church and Salaûn (costs and expenses)

Tracey Turner-Tretz (tel: + 33 3 88 41 35 30)
Céline Menu-Lange (tel: + 33 3 90 21 58 77)
Nina Salomon (tel: + 33 3 90 21 49 79)
Denis Lambert (tel: + 33 3 90 21 41 09)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.
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