August 23, 2006

The High Cost of Church

ReligionNewsBlog.com recently shared a story from the Los Angeles Times describing the high cost of church in a Texas community. I am ashamed to say that I had never before realized the economic toll an excessive number of churches exerts on a town.

The issue is the tax exemption churches enjoy. Personally, my support for this tax exemption is conditional and applies only to those churches who stay out of politics. I believe that the second a church becomes politically active, instructing members how to vote, their exemption should be pulled.

However, politically active churches violating federal law is not the focus of this article. Rather, the article makes the case that a large number of churches in a small community has the effect of depriving the community of tax revenues which would be generated by allowing secular building in place of churches.

Stafford, a town of just under 20,000 near Houston, has 51 churches and other religious organizations. Now the town is attempting to block more churches from being built in the few remaining undeveloped areas. Their rationale is that they would lose the tax revenue other buildings would generate in these areas.

51 churches in a community of 20,000! This is beyond excessive, and I appreciate the town's situation. A city councilman notes, "Somebody's got to pay for police, fire and schools." Maybe they can just have a faith-based fire department. A call comes in, it is relayed to one of the many churches, and the parishioners pray for the fire to go out.

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