KEENE – The Keene Sentinel, one of New Hampshire’s largest print newspapers, profiled the Shire Free Church on the front page of its Sunday edition.
The Shire Free Church was founded in 2010 as an interfaith church promoting peace. According to the Church’ website:
“What unifies the Shire Free Church and its diverse members is peace, love, and liberty. There are many paths to God – one for every individual. The Shire Free Church does not define a specific path beyond those parameters that must be your foundation: peace as your way, love as your guide, and liberty as your light.”
On March 6, two ministers of the church, Ian B. Freeman and Darryl W. Perry, filed an application with the City of Keene’s assessing department for tax-exempt status, on religious grounds, for the church’s property at 73 and 75 Leverett Street. The property was formerly owned by Freeman, co-host of the nationally syndicated talk radio program Free Talk Live and a founder of the Free Keene movement, which seeks to promote a voluntary society using peaceful, market-based actions.
“We’re going to review it, and we’ll make our recommendation to the Keene board of assessors, and they’ll make a determination,” City Assessor Daniel Langille said to Keene Sentinel reporter Kyle Jarvis.
In a telephone interview with Jarvis, Freeman stated, “I don’t support war, and I don’t believe people who consider themselves Christian should support war either. So, Christians, Muslims, Quakers, anyone who supports peace is welcome in the Shire Church. It gives them a place to go where they can find people who share their beliefs, even if they don’t share theological beliefs.”
The annual taxes on the Leverett Street property are about $6,000. According to the Sentinel article, Freeman said he paid the property taxes for the first half of last year, but then donated the property to the Shire Society, which paid only 45 percent of the second half of the year’s property taxes. Freeman is quoted as stating: “The intention there was to support city services we value as a church, like clearing roads, things like that, but excluding the school portion of the taxes. Taking some of the money we didn’t pay in taxes, we donated it to the Waldorf School, which is right down the street. We support education, but not necessarily the state’s education. Even though we’re seeking (tax-exempt status) that doesn’t mean we’re not going to contribute to the community.”
The Board of Assessors has until July 1 to make a ruling on the application, Langille said.