Cook County Masonic Temple Ass'n v. Department of Revenue

Decision Date25 February 1982
Docket NumberNo. 81-1017,81-1017
Citation60 Ill.Dec. 341,432 N.E.2d 1240,104 Ill.App.3d 658
Parties, 60 Ill.Dec. 341 COOK COUNTY MASONIC TEMPLE ASSOCIATION, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, State of Illinois, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Flanagan, Bilton & Brannigan, Chicago (Thomas E. Brannigan, Chicago, of counsel), for plaintiffs-appellees.

LINN, Justice:

Plaintiff, Cook County Masonic Temple Association, is an unincorporated association that acts as the representative of all the individual Masonic Temple organizations in Cook County. The other 33 plaintiffs are the individual Masonic Temple organizations that are members of the Cook County Masonic Temple Association. These 33 plaintiffs each own the sites on which their respective temples are built.

The issue in this case is whether the properties with the temples on them were used for charitable purposes and were therefore exempt from real estate taxation in 1978 under the Revenue Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 120, par. 500.7). Defendant, the Department of Revenue, determined that the properties were not exempt. On review under the Administrative Review Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.), the circuit court of Cook County reversed the Department's finding and held that the properties were exempt. The Department has appealed to this court.

We affirm.

BACKGROUND

The corporate charter of each Masonic Temple organization states that the primary purpose of the organization is to promote and conduct charitable, educational, and religious activities. The Masonic Temple Association maintains several charitable organizations in Illinois, among which are the Illinois Masonic Home for the Aged, the Illinois Masonic Medical Center, the Illinois Masonic Children's Home, and the Illinois Masonic Nurses Training Scholarship Foundation. The exempt status of the properties on which the Masons provide their charitable services, such as the Home for the Aged or the Children's Home, is not in question here. It is undisputed that the Masons raise and spend millions of dollars each year to operate their charitable organizations.

Each temple is used for the periodic meetings of the individual organization that owns it. One important purpose of these meetings is to foster the high ideals and morals of Masonry. The first and last parts of these meetings are rituals having a religious tone. The meetings are often used to admit new members who have completed the three required stages of study in Masonry principles. Potential members are often tested to determine whether they have completed the studies for each stage leading to membership.

The most important business of each temple, discussed at each meeting, is the raising of money for charitable activities. The Masons not only support their own established charitable organizations but also respond to one-time requests for charitable contributions from other local, state, or national organizations.

Donations to support the Masons' charitable activities are often solicited at both official meetings and social functions held at the temples. The Masons have no other program, such as mail solicitation, to raise funds; 90 to 95 percent of the money which supports the Masons' charities is raised at the meetings and social functions in the temples.

Besides using the temples for meetings and fund raising, Masons also use the temples for educational activities involving the children of members. When not using it for Mason business, each organization allows civic and religious organizations to use its temple, usually without charge. None of the temples makes a profit, and no profit-seeking organization is allowed to use the temples.

Each member of a temple organization is assessed $15 to $20 a year in dues, one dollar of which is turned over to Grand Lodge Charity Fund, the statewide charity fund of the Masons; the rest is used to pay for the utilities and maintenance and, until the year at issue in this case, the real estate tax bills of the temple. Individual members are not expressly required to donate additional funds for charity, though they usually do so. Social functions at the temples are not specifically restricted to fund-raising events, but this is usually done also, since the chartered purpose of the organizations is to support charitable activities.

Besides these activities, at the time this case was heard each temple was occasionally used as a center for blood donations, part of a new nationwide Masonic program. At the time of the hearing, only Masons and their immediate families were covered by the blood donations; however, the Masons' goal is to expand the program so that every person in the country can be covered.

Based on the foregoing undisputed facts, the Department of Revenue determined that the temple properties were not exempt from real estate taxes. The circuit court of Cook County reversed and determined that the properties were exempt.

OPINION
I

The issue before us is not whether the Department's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence. When the facts upon which a decision of tax exempt status rests are undisputed, whether property is exempt is a question of law. Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Co. v. Department of Local Government Affairs of the State of Illinois (1981), 101 Ill.App.3d 414, 57 Ill.Dec. 7, 428 N.E.2d 557; see Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Department of Revenue (1963), 29 Ill.2d 564, 194 N.E.2d 257.

Under section 19.7 of the Revenue Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 120, par. 500.7), to qualify for the charitable exemption, property must be owned by a charitable organization and must be used exclusively for charitable purposes. (Rogers Park Post No. 108, the American Legion v. Brenza (1956), 8 Ill.2d 286, 134 N.E.2d 292.) The parties agree that the properties in question were owned by charitable organizations within the meaning of the statute. The charter of each Masonic organization states that its primary purpose and activity is to do charitable works.

The dispute in this case involves whether the temples were used exclusively for charitable purposes. "Exclusively used" has been held to mean that the primary use of the property must be charitable. Though the property has other incidental uses, it will still qualify for the exemption as long as those uses are not for profitable purposes. People ex rel. Nordlund v. Association of the Winnebago Home for the Aged (1968), 40 Ill.2d 91, 237 N.E.2d 533. The Department argues that the primary use of the temples was to provide a meeting place for the Masons to carry on the ideals and morals of Masonry, which is not a charitable purpose. Plaintiffs argue that the temples were primarily used to raise funds for the Masons' charitable activities, and all other uses were incidental. We agree with the Masons.

The Department's argument depends on the interpretation of three Illinois supreme court cases decided in February and April 1932....

To continue reading

Request your trial
13 cases
  • Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart v. Department of Revenue
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 13, 1987
    ...the issue of whether the property here is exempt is a question of law. (Cook County Masonic Temple Association v. Department of Revenue (1982), 104 Ill.App.3d 658, 660, 60 Ill.Dec. 341, 432 N.E.2d 1240; see also Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Department of Revenue (1963), 29 Ill.2d 564, 566, 19......
  • People v. Johnson
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • February 25, 1982
    ... ... Cook County, Chicago (Michael E. Shabat, Adrienne ... the victim went to the Evanston Police Department to view a lineup. In the first lineup she ... ...
  • Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois v. Department of Revenue
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 11, 1987
    ...the issue of whether the property here is exempt is a question of law. (Cook County Masonic Temple Association v. Department of Revenue (1982), 104 Ill.App.3d 658, 660, 60 Ill.Dec. 341, 432 N.E.2d 1240; see also Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Department of Revenue (1963), 29 Ill.2d 564, 566, 19......
  • Winona School of Professional Photography v. Department of Revenue
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • March 18, 1991
    ...status rests are undisputed, whether property is exempt is a question of law." (Cook County Masonic Temple Ass'n v. Department of Revenue (1982), 104 Ill.App.3d 658, 660, 60 Ill.Dec. 341, 432 N.E.2d 1240.) Thus, the decision as to whether the property is exempt "depends solely upon an appli......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT