Legal Updates On Our Property Tax Battle

Please consider a donation to help us with our legal defense costs by clicking the button above.  All donations are fully tax deductible.  Catskill has spent in probable excess of 200,000 dollars to deny our Constitutional rights at this point and vowed to spend whatever it takes to continue to discriminate against us.  We are a poor order and rely on donations to keep fighting for the rights of all minority religions.  We cannot give in to this.


Despite the fact that the Town of Catskill offered no credible theory in court for their continued denial of exemption, I was just informed that the Maetreum of Cybele has been denied property tax exemption for 2012 meaning another entire round in this ongoing drama.  The wheels of justice turn very slowly in Greene County, New York.  The actual trial was split between two days last November and December but the final arguments in our court case still have not been submitted at this time.  They are supposed to be due in about two weeks and then we will have to await the Judge's actual decision after that.  In the meantime we will once again have to go to the Board of Review hearing later in May and almost certainly be denied again and have to file yet another lawsuit against Catskill.  Despite claims to the press for several years that Catskill did not question our legitimacy as a religion, the entirety of their case was exactly that we were not a legitimate religion under the IRS guidelines.  Again despite the IRS recognition we are.  We proved in court we met every one of the IRS "fourteen points" for determining what is or isn't a church

In review, the property in question is deeded to the Maetreum of Cybele, the Maetreum is legally incorporated in New York as a religious non-profit and the IRS has recognized our legal standing as both a church and religious charitable organization under 501 (c)3.  We have a long history of charitable works including having just won asylum for a woman from Nepal who we have been giving room and board to for nine months now and charitable housing for two other women in need for the past eight months.  We have regular services at the full and new moons on our grounds, a dedicated Temple on the grounds, sponsor a number of Pagan events including our local Pagan Pride Day event.  We do more charitable works than the other three Christian churches in our community combined.

At this point we have over ten thousand dollars in unpaid legal fees from our years long fight for religious equality for all minority religions and almost certainly will win our ongoing court case but we need help with the finances.  Catskill has spent somewhere in excess of a quarter of a million dollars fighting our exemption believing we could be forced out of the fight by outspending us.  Help us prove them wrong.


We finally had our day in court, two actually separated by three weeks.  A decision will not be handed down until sometime after the beginning of March of 2012 which will fall after the deadline to reapply for our exemption for 2012.  The first day was taken up by the testimony of Rev. Cathryn Platine for direct, cross examination and re-direct.  On Dec. 7'th was day two and the testimony of Dr. Caillean McMahon.  During her cross examination the Town introduced a picture from her private facebook photo album of her cat, Kevin, sitting in a box that was marked "Christmas 2008" taken at her home in Erie Pa during a celebration with her Christian parents.  We were told by the Town that this was proof we were actually Christians and not Pagans and therefore our religion is a sham.

The Town also tried to assert that putting "Occupy Catskill" on the large sign in front of our property was a violation of IRS regulations for 501(c)(3) churches prohibiting endorsement of political candidates.  The priestesses present and our attorney felt we more than met the burden of proof.  That burden had been shifted to us at the last minute before the trial began in a decision handed down a few weeks prior to the actual start of the trial.  We have been left financially broke by the legal expenses and owe our attorney several thousands of dollars for her trial work and the upcoming filings that will have to be made before a decision is rendered.  We badly need help raising this money as we are entering the winter season without resources and currently are supporting three women in need staying with us.

Attempts to reach a settlement both before day one in court and day two were totally blocked by the attorney for Greene County who refused any and all settlements that did not include all taxes levied to date being paid.  At the moment there is a court injuction against foreclosure for the taxes levied for the years 2009 and 2010.  Taxes for 2011 are still open.

5/25/11     2011 Assessment Board of Review was last night

Right from the beginning the nature of this farce was apparent.  Although we were present long before the doors were unlocked, two people had been pre-signed in before us in an open violation of open meeting requirements.  We were represented by our new attorney who informed the Board that, among other things, having granted us the exemption in 2006 and then withdrawing it placed the burden of proof on them and that was a burden they could never reach given the facts that had been presented over the past five years to them.  They were instructed that they absolutely do not have the legal right to decide if we are "legitimate" or not under the Constitution or New York law.  When she introduced the latest article in the Daily News where acting town supervisor, Patrick Walsh, clearly stated they would continue to fight us to prevent other "illegitimate" and "isolated" from pursuing their legal and constitutional rights.  At that point Jeanette Pleugh loudly proclaimed "we don't believe anything in the press".    Somehow I thing the judge in our case will think otherwise.  Our attorney instructed the Board that all prior submitted material from prior years was part of our appeal this year and then strongly advised them to read Judge Pulver's recent decision.

The person before us took 16 minutes to present his case.  Our attorney spoke for about seven minutes and then asked me to address the Board.  Before I could finish my first sentence I was interrupted by Ms. Pleugh and told in a very angry and confrontational way that there was a time limit on speaking and I was near it's end.  She did this last year as well and just as in the prior year, no other person appearing before the Board was told there was a time limit.  Our attorney confronted Ms. Pleugh on the clearly uneven and unequal treatment I had just been subjected to.  Finally I was allowed to speak, but rather than speak on what I had planned to, our use of the property, I simply told them that two different lawyers had now instructed them that they do not have any legal right to rule on our religion as legitimate, that I had appeared for five years now before them and if that did not demonstrate our sincerity, I had no idea what would and that we would not give up this fight under any conditions.

The is literally no chance they will not once again deny our exemption and once again, will not give an actual reason.  So be it, when we are officially notified their denial, we will immedately file our third lawsuit in court.  This will also eventually become a Federal case, most likely both a civil and criminal one.

4/25/11    Town of Catskill acting Supervisor openly admits the Town is fighting for the right to discriminate against us

In an interview with  Daily Mail reporter  Colin De Vries,  acting Town Supervisor, Patrick Walsh clearly stated that if the town didn’t pursue the case, it may open the door to other isolated religious groups to pop up and claim exemptions.  Forget the Constitution, forget freedom of religion, forget equal protection under the law, Catskill's Town Council alone get to decide which religions are legitimate and which are not.  Walsh went one step further and declared the Cybeline Revival illegitimate.  The Town of Catskill has apparently indicated a willingness to break the Town budget to discriminate on the basis of religion when they were unwilling last year to fight the demands of Wal-Mart citing the legal costs of doing so.  There can be no doubt that Catskill feels they can win by outspending a poor group of spiritual women and intimidate any other religious minority from seeking their legal rights under New York and Federal law, they have now stated so clearly and on the record.  A reminder, the Maetreum of Cybele is fully recognized by the US IRS as a legal religious charitable organization under tax code 501c3 and by the State of New York as the same.  The Maetreum of Cybele is legally incorporated in New York as a church.  The Maetreum of Cybele has an actual traceable history long pre-dating Christianity and in fact was for 500 years the only religion recognized as "official" by the Roman Empire.  Even the famed Vatican was named after the Cybelines.  In Latin it means seers and the Vatican hill was the hill of the seers.  We were those seers it was named after, our Roman Phrygianum the first construction on the Vatican.  Questioning our "legitimacy" is thus on a par with questioning whether or not Judaism is a legitimate religion.  This is straight out religious bigotry.  We are exactly the wrong Pagan tradition to challenge on the basis of history.

Walsh also re-visited "land use".  Judge Pulver clearly ruled out that use of the property as a Convent/Abbey as grounds for denial.  Last May, at the Catskill Board of Assessment Review hearing (part of the process prior to filing a court action) Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine extended an invitation to the entire Board of Review to tour the Maetreum property to see for themselves how the property is dedicated to religious purposes.  That invitation was rudely declined and dismissed.  Other than the regularly scheduled fire and safety inspection last fall, no representative of the Town of Catskill has asked for or visited the Maetreum of Cybele since 2007 when our routine renewal of our property tax exemption was first denied.  Any claims on their part as to our use of the property has no basis in any facts.

Pagans, we have kept this fight going against all odds up to now.  We need your support and donations to keep it up.  There is now no longer any question that this is about Pagan religions having an equal legal standing with the so called mainstream religions and this is at least as important an issue as the Pentacle marker for Veterans graves fight.  Catskill clearly believes they can bully us because we are poor, we cannot let them win this.  We are a poor group that struggles just to pay the daily bills, this legal battle has drained our resources and the Town knows this.


We learned this past weekend that the Town of Catskill appealed the Judge's decision to the New York Appellate Court.  We believe this is their last ditch effort to avoid having to legally grant our exemption for 2011 as the deadline for them to decide on that is fast approaching and the decision left no grounds for denial since the Board of Assessment Review refused the invitation to tour our property last year meaning they have no direct knowledge of how we use our property, literally the only wiggle room they had.


The Maetreum was granted a court ordered "stay" from all foreclosure proceedings until the resolution of it's legal actions against the Town of Catskill

In a seventeen page decision on the motion of the Town of Catskill to dismiss our case and our counter motion for summery judgment the Maetreum was granted a stay from any tax foreclosure action by the county.  In three separate places in that decision the Judge commented directly on the clear discriminatory nature of the stated basis for our denial in language that chided the Town attorney for vague nature of his complants and claims.  Further, the judge, one by one and with cited precedences denied the legitimacy of all the rationale offered by the Town attorney for denial of our exemption leaving them without a basis for having done so.  It fell short of actual summery judgment, just short.  The Judge made clear that he expects us to show the religious use of our property in court but also indicated he is already aware we do so and are a legitimate religion.  The Judge basically handed us a ready made Federal case against the Town of Catskill if we decide to proceed in that manner as well as more than enough to re-open our complaint with the State Attorney Generals Office of open discrimination by the Town of Catskill.  By avoiding mention of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Persons Act of 2000, he preserved our use of that as basis of a Federal court case.  In short, he communicated that the Town would be well advised to settle with us now.  On Monday we will have to file for our 2011 property tax exemption with the Town Assessor.  That filing will include citations from this decision.  Given that, if we are once again denied we will proceed directly to Federal Court and file the action with the State AG's office which should trigger a full scale investigation into the Town of Catskill.


Yesterday an excellent article appeared in the New York Times  I would like to address comments made by Mr. Vincelette to the Times reporter, specifically that the Town has not questioned the legitimacy of our religion.  In motion after motion for the past three years and in each application for property tax exemption before that Mr. Vincelette has done exactly that.  Over and over he has challenged our very basis as a religion including in a marathon deposition of myself of over four hours where he even questioned, line by line, every penny in our financial statements and that we have not published in book form our thealogy.  He called our legitimacy into question because we do not have a "Sunday School" program/.  He has required me personally to provide proof of my own religious credentials over and over and over.  Now he claims the refusal to grant our exemption is solely because our property is not used for "religious purposes" except incidentally, that it is merely a residence.  Mr. Vincelette has made these claims to two other reporters, none of them bought it because all three have conducted their interviews on our property.  They saw for themselves the nature of our Phrgianum, they learned first hand we continually take in women in need.  This does not happen in a mere residence.

The facts are these.  We have spent considerable effort constructing a permanent temple on the back side of the property complete with concrete columns we have cast and erected ourselves and benches we cast ourselves.  Every public space in our home is decorated everywhere you look with images meant to invoke Goddess consciousness cross culturally.  In 2003, long before we incorporated or sought exempt status, we researched and wrote the "Rule of the Women of Cybele".   This document is designed to provide a framework for women living together in a spiritual monastic community.  It was first published on our website in 2004, again before we incorporated and before we first sought property tax exempt status.  We live by it.  It was recovered with the aid of Benedictine nums from their own "Rule of the Women of St. Benedict".   In other words, we have been structuring our living arrangements at the Phrygianum in essentially the exact same model used by a Catholic Convent.  Mr. Vincelette knows this, he has been handed or mailed or served countless copies of our organizational models that include this.  He is flat out lying.  We have done charitable works since the original four women bought the property, we've never stopped taking in women in need.  No other religious group in our hamlet does this, not one.   No one is paid by the Maetreum of Cybele, no one.  We donate all our resources, time and efforts available to the Maetreum and take nothing material in return.  None of the four women who deeded their interest in our property can ever again profit from that property in any fashion.  That is State and Federal law.  By law, if for some reason, the Maetreum ceases to exist, all of it's assets, including the property, must go to another Pagan group or other similar religious charitable organization.

Each and every week something of a religious nature is scheduled at our Phrygianum, often multiple events.  Women and sometimes men, come to stay with us for spiritual retreats on a regular basis.  We do not charge for any of this.  Every night we do "Nightly Praise" before one of the altars in our home as is part of our Rule.   The Catskill Board of Assessment Review flatly and somewhat rudely declined an invitation to tour our property to see for themselves how it is used.  In other words, this claim we are not using our property for religious purposes is based solely on the biased opinion of Mr. Vincelette himself and has no other basis, real or imagined.  We have been informed we will need to defend the legitimacy of our religion in court in clear violation of Federal law and as an open insult to an IRS recognized religious charity and one incorporated under New York Religious Incorporation law.

Our research last fall of fully exempt properties within the Town of Catskill revealed multiple properties listed as "parsonages" as being fully exempt.  In other words, properties used just as housing for clergy.  There was even a picnic ground, listed as such, owned by a Christian church that was fully exempt.  So much for Mr. Vincelette's claims that the exemption laws are applied equally.  The man is a liar, there is simply no other way to put it.  This case is and always has been about pure religious prejudice and denial of our first amendment rights.


This insane vendetta by the Town of Catskill and it's attorney, Daniel Vincelette is now entering the fifth year.  Currently we have two separate legal actions filed and active against them.  We have complied with all discovery requests made of us and been completely upfront but this is not mutual.  Catskill have refused almost all document requests even those for documents that are supposed to be part of the public record.  They have fought the deposition of the Town Assessor, threatened our attorney with phony sanction complaints, perjured themselves and subbourned perjury.  Yesterday in a deposition of the individual who the Town website identifies as the chair of the Assessment Board of Review,  and was summonded as such, we learned the town attorney deliberately hid the fact he was not for the year 2010.  Such simple questions as "do you acknowledge that the Maetreum of Cybele is a religion" brought objections that we needed to define the word "religion".  When our attorney started to do so, yet another objection to the Federal definition!   This has been typical of "Mr." Vinceletti throughout this entire ordeal.  This man maintains that he and he alone gets to decided if we are a legitimate religion.  According to the sworn testimony of Roger Moore yesterday, who has been on the Catskill  Board of Assessment Review since before this began, not one single non-profit or religious group has had to fight for their legally mandated property tax exemption but us.  Not a single one!

In 2009 the stated reason given for denial of our exemption was zoning and building code violation.  When I checked with the Code Enforcement Office for the Town, I found they have considered us fully compliant on fire and safety codes and nothing at all about building code violations, ever.  Additionally we were inspected for fire and safety this fall and passed with flying colours unlike most of the other local businesses.

I came home yesterday to find this in the mail......

.foreclosure notice

Mind you, we have a written agreement from the Greene County Attorney NOT to do this until the legal action is final just a couple of months old and the Judge ordered no foreclosure actions be taken on this case back in the fall of 2009.  For more than a year the Catskill Attorney has filed specious motion after motion to delay this being heard and forced a legal action that was supposed to be a simple judicial decision to a full blown trial with all the expenses that entails in the belief they can cost us out of the case.  Our legal fees are now in excess of 15,000 dollars as a result.  

We need financial help to go on.........please, please, please make a donation from the main page via paypal.  You can also help by sending us a notarized affidavit if you have found spiritual value in our website and work. 

Such an affidavit should state your name, that you are over 18 years old and swear that what you say is true to the best of your knowledge.  Mail to:

Maetreum of Cybele

 3312 Route 23A 

Palenville, NY 12463

The latest news story about us is here

I'm adding this page to provide updates to our legal battle with the Town of Catskill.  Since 2007 Catskill has refused to renew our legally mandated property tax exemption citing different reasons each year.  At this point we have two separate legal actions filed against them, one for the tax year 2009 and the other for this year, 2010.  We are a Federally recongized 501 c3 religious charity with exempt status with the State of New York as well and we are incorporated under New York Religious Incorporation law.  Our property is the worldwide home of the Cybeline Revival, titled in the name of the incorporated religion, the home of the Cybeline Priestesses and maintained as a womans spirituality centre as well.  Our religion requires us to do charitable works which we have done from before the transfer of the property to the Maetreum of Cybele mostly in the form of emergency housing for women in need.  Currently we have a woman staying with us who met that requirement have come from an abusive relationship with injures and six cats who had no money or place to stay.  We have housed many many women in need over the years.  We would also like to be able to start a food pantry for our area in the near future and we are the hostesses of Pagan Pride Day in Eastern upstate New York.

We basically pay our own way with our limited resources and the property tax is approximately 1/3 of our annual budget so it is a very very big deal being denied our exemption.  Believe it or not one of the reasons the Town attorney has given for denial was actually our charitable housing work!  This is directly in opposition to the part of New York law dealing with mandated exempt property classes.  In court, the attorney for the town announced that the real reason for the denial was not the money, but to prevent "opening the floodgates" to other minority religions.  The town code enforcement officer told me in front of witnesses that we were being targeted for rigourous code enforcement because "you are a minority and didn't keep your head down" or in other words, insisted on our legal rights under the law.  These two specific occurances basically erased all doubt that this is about religious discrimination.  The other "reason" being given is zoning violations and building code violations.  Our Maetreum has been in continuous use as an inn/lodge since 1890, zoned commerical as an Inn/Lodge and we have done no work that required a building permit.  None of this seems to matter to the Town even when they have been informed this reason is in direct violation of Federal law, specifically the Religous Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.  Their goal at this point is to force us to apply for a change of use permit then require that a 130+ year old sound historic structure be brought into full modern code requirements, basically impossible, so they can condemn the property and force us to leave.

Recently we learned the Town may be actually able to foreclose on our property despite the fact the matter remains in court because of a vuglarity of New York law unless we pay all the "back" taxes in ligitation.  Our legal fees have been staggering despite having a very reasonably priced attorney.  We will win this case eventually if we don't get priced out of it so we need all the help the Pagan community can give us.  All donations are fully tax deductable.  You can paypal a donation to centralhouse @ (remove spaces) or snail mail to:

Maetreum of Cybele

3312 Route 23A

Palenville, New York 12463

We have three plus acres in the Catskill Mountains with an historic Inn and both an outdoor Temple and a generic circle available to other Pagan groups to use.

This battle is of vital importance to all Minority religions as a basic religious freedom issue.  We are one of the few brick and mortar Pagan Temples in the US but others will come and be faced with the same out and out religious bigotry unless a message is sent that we will demand equal treatment with the so called "mainstream" religious groups.  News stories about our plight are here and here.