Heaven is a tax-free paradise in Oregon

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The Independent Online
WORRY no longer about the eye of a needle. All you need to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is a good map and a car robust enough for the potholed roads of rural America.

According to Paul Revere, Heaven is an overgrown patch of land in the north-western United States, 20 miles from Salem, the administrative headquarters of Oregon.

Mr Revere is so convinced of this that he has declared his 34-acre plot a sovereign state, exempt from rules enforced by pen-pushing mortals because it belongs to God. And especially exempt from rules which say Heaven owes dollars 10,000 ( pounds 6,580) in property taxes to Marion County.

The grey-bearded pastor is head of the Embassy of Heaven church, one of scores of religious cults that thrive in the far-flung corners of Oregon. Heaven is home to his wife, Rachel; his daughters Brooke, 14, and Skye, 11; and a friend simply known as Abraham, and his cat.

Visitors to the church say going to Heaven is easy - a bumpy drive leads past the 'Entering Heaven' sign and a couple of clapped-out pickup trucks to Mr Revere's wood cabin. But for Mr Revere, the problem is not getting in but getting out again. Last time he ventured beyond his boundaries he ended up in jail for displaying Heaven-issued number plates and for refusing to carry any documents apart from a Heaven driving licence.

Mr Revere feels strongly about traffic: before renouncing the world and changing his name, he was Craig Douglas Fleshman, a computer analyst with Oregon's Department of Transportation.

So far, he has issued 200 to 300 Heaven number plates along with a 'Heaven Vehicle Code' - a divinely-inspired highway code which he gives to his handful of followers, along with an embossed Heaven passport.

Mr Revere, who has been arrested twice this year, is adamant that his church will remain exempt from the law of flesh and blood. He says his land is the divine equivalent of an embassy - giving its members diplomatic status in foreign lands: 'Jesus did not pay taxes . . . I don't need 10 books of Oregon statutes to tell me how to live.'

Marion County officials are unmoved. They say that if he doesn't pay the dollars 10,000, Heaven will be put on the market.