On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected a request for oral argument in a case brought about by a pair of ministers against the city of Fredericksburg in Virginia. The case "New Life in Christ Church v. City of Fredericksburg" was filed by Josh and Anacari Storms and revolved around whether the two can claim a tax exemption for their residence.

According to the Christian Post, the Storms couple are college ministers who minister to students at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. They also host Bible studies and worship events. When seeking for a tax-exempt status for a parsonage however, city officials in Fredericksburg said that the Storms did not "fit the exact classification of a minister according to the Presbyterian Church in America, which includes a requirement to be ordained and a prohibition on female ordination," the report revealed.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch however took exception to the country's high court denying the appeal in a written dissent. The judge argued that the Storms couple should have been eligible for the tax-exempt residence.

"The church tried to explain that the City misunderstood its traditions and practices. The church responded that, yes, women can and do serve as ministers," Justice Gorsuch wrote in his dissent. "It acknowledged that 'in order to deliver sermons' a minister in its tradition must be ordained but nothing in its rules or the Book of Church Order 'prohibits a particular church from hiring ministers to serve as messengers and teachers of the faith' without ordination."

Justice Gorsuch also took aim at the Virginia government, writing that the city "continues to insist that a church's religious rules are 'subject to verification' by government officials."

Justice Gorsuch said he would grant the petition and summarily reverse because as per the Constitution's First Amendment, judges are not allowed to 'subject' religious beliefs 'to verification.'" He added that the court has "spoken plainly and consistently for many years."

Despite the case being a "small one," Justice Gorsuch said he will "correct" the earlier decision and underscored how the government's "efforts to 'subject' religious beliefs to 'verification' have no place in a free country."

In August 2021, the First Liberty Institute, Christian Legal Society and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLC filed a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of New Life in Christ Church in response to the refusal of Virginia's Supreme Court to hear the Storms' complaint against the city for denying them the tax exemption status.

According to the Free Lance-Star, John Rife of Taxing Authority Consulting Services, who defended the city of Fredericksburg in the case, argued that under Virginia law, the city may provide tax exemption for the church minister's own residence, "not every residence a church may own." He argued, "It's up to the church, like any other taxpayer, to provide the evidence to back up its claim for a tax exemption."

The city further argued that the Storms couple are not ordained nor do they perform duties such as the Lord's Supper or Baptism. Because the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the church is required to continue paying the annual $4,589.15 property tax bill on the property.

First Liberty Institute CEO said it was a "travesty" and is "dangerous" for a government to "determine theology and tell a church who is or is not a minister."