Foreclosure looms over pagans' tax battle

A pagan group that wants the town of Catskill to recognize it as a religious organization may lose its Palenville home before the end of the year.

The Maetreum of Cybele, a pagan community that owns the former Central House hotel on Rte. 23A, has been fighting the town of Catskill over property taxes since 2007. (We wrote about the dispute last year.) Despite the group's use of its Palenville property as a temple and a convent, the town of Catskill has refused to grant it a religious exemption to property taxes. 

The Maetreum is fighting the town's decision in several court cases. In 2009, it filed a lawsuit charging Catskill with religious discrimination. But Greene County is beginning a foreclosure process that could exile the pagans from their home before either case is resolved.

The county calculates that the Maetreum has racked up $13,835 in unpaid taxes and interest on the Palenville property. On January 15, Ellen Crouse, the Greene County Director of Taxes, sent the Maetreum a letter demanding payment in 60 days. You can read that letter below. 

Foreclose Notice 2011

Crouse told the Watershed Post last week that if the tax bill remains unpaid, the foreclosure process on the Maetreum's property could begin in late February. 

Cathryn Platine, the spiritual leader of the Maetreum, was shocked by the arrival of the foreclosure letter. In the fall, the Maetreum's lawyer filed a motion requesting that the foreclosure be postponed until the lawsuits had finished. In November, Greene County Attorney Carol Stevens seemed to agree to put the foreclosure process on pause. You can read a copy of the letter from Stevens below.

County Letter Stay009

"The county attorney wrote our attorney two months ago stating that no foreclosure proceeding would begin until after the two legal cases ongoing were decided," Platine said in an email to the Watershed Post last week. "Given everything that has gone on before, this cannot be taken as a miscommunication."

Stevens did not return a call from the Watershed Post. However, Crouse said that the county's plans to foreclose are not final, and that she did not know whether the county had agreed to pause the foreclosure process.

Foreclosure or no, the Maetreum's legal battle shows no sign of flagging. Platine told the Daily Mail earlier this month that she would take the case to federal court if necessary. That same article reported that the town of Catskill's budget for tax litigation was substantially increased this year.

The Maetreum's war chest is being drained by the conflict. From Platine's email:

So far we have held our own with some help from Pagans out there but we are getting in over our heads on fiances. We are poor. My only income, for example, is SSI disability for job related back injuries. Yet even without resources, in the past six months we have provided four people with needed housing assistance and food. We seriously need help. We need donations and they are fully tax deductible. We need support from the Pagan community spiritually and magickly. Please, no curses but bindings and reveals would be in order. And of course energy for us because this is beyond draining on our own internal resources.

The Maetreum is collecting money for its legal fund via PayPal on its website. To contribute, click here.