Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks at rally with local pastors demanding moratorium for churches facing foreclosure

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Reverend Jesse Jackson joined local pastors in their fight to stop what they call “tax and take" at Milwaukee's City Hall Tuesday, Nov. 30.  They’re demanding an immediate moratorium on the city’s demand for churches to pay taxes under threat of foreclosure.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, along with Operation Rainbow PUSH, are joining forces with the Wisconsin State Baptist Convention, the Milwaukee leaders of the Church of God in Christ, MICAH, Pastors United and Souls to the Polls to make the change. 

“These are treacherous times for the Black community. We are facing COVID, a troubled economy and increased efforts to undermine our voting rights. This is a time when the city should be working in partnership with the urban churches to build a stronger and healthier future. This is not a time to threaten churches’ stability in high-risk neighborhoods,” said Rev Jesse Jackson ahead of the rally. 

Jackson and some local pastors sat down with Mayor Tom Barrett after the rally.

Barrett stressed that his personal belief on this issue aligns with city and state law.

"Churches are tax exempt, and churches should be tax exempt and should remain tax exempt," Barrett said.

Barrett admitted that the law can be confusing. There's a form that needs to be filed yearly for churches to be considered tax exempt.

"What happens if you have a legitimate church that has not filed appropriately? What should the penalty be?" Barrett said.

The mayor made a commitment to find those answers and do what he can under city and state law to remedy this issue.

Clergymen from Milwaukee and Racine said they have taken efforts to meet with city leaders in the past but have not found a satisfactory resolution to the problem. 

“As faith leaders committed to caring for our congregations amid poverty, violence and deprivation, we call on the mayor and Common Council to cease and desist actions that are threatening our capacity to meet community needs," said Pastor Steve Tipton, the leader of the Stop the Tax and Take campaign. 

After the rally, church leaders delivered letters to the mayor's office and the president of Milwaukee's Common Council as well as the council members, demanding an immediate moratorium on "tax and take" activities by the Assessor’s Office.

The city Assessor's Office said it was unaware of any church foreclosures. 

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