The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, March 06, 2015

So, why exactly are churches tax exempt?

A government crackdown on churches has Christians in Lake Worth, Fla., wondering if they live in the United States or the former Soviet Union.

Churches in Lake Worth, population 36,000, have been ordered to acquire a business license. As if the church has to get the government’s permission to preach and pray?

But wait. It gets worse, folks.

City officials were so concerned about one congregation that they dispatched a code enforcement officer cloaked in a hoodie to spy on a Southern Baptist church that was meeting in a coffee house.

Florida city wages soviet-style crackdown on churches | Fox News

Bunny had sent me the link, and when we went out to lunch, we had a very lively discussion about this article.

An interesting portion is this quote from the above article:

“After we opened up the coffee bar and started doing services, I heard that he told people we were anti-gay,” Olive said. “So I went to his shop to ask him about that.”

Florida city wages soviet-style crackdown on churches | Fox News

But in looking up other articles about this, I came across this:

Olive told the Tribune he had heard that City Commissioner Andy Amoroso, who owns a newsstand and gay-pornography shop in Lake Worth, was telling people Olive and his church were “anti-gay,” a charge Olive denied and attempted to address personally with Amoroso.

U.S. city spies on churches, demands licenses

which Bunny felt explained the quote in the first story. It also clarified that the Common Ground Chuch also runs the Common Grounds Coffee Bar. And it was made clear in the second article that the Common Grounds Coffee Bar also rents the space out to other groups and organizations. But what, exactly, is going on here?

After lunch, I decided to do a bit more checking on this story, as I think it's a facinating story. It's fun reading about this story from other points of view, say, from this alternative leftist website:

The city does not require churches or nonprofit organizations to pay a business license tax, but they are required to obtain a use and occupancy certificate – which officials use to ensure they don’t pose public safety hazards or break any local, state, or federal laws.

The code officer, Gerald Coscia, found the church may have been overcrowded and possibly lacked a sufficient emergency exit, and he said the building likely failed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

He determined that Olive’s landlord, Mission Education International, had a valid business license for the coffee shop with an exemption for charitable organizations, but the church lacked a use and occupancy certificate.

City officials notified the landlord by letter and outlined what they needed from the church to issue the proper permit, but Olive claims the investigation violates “the separation of church and state.”

Right-Wing Christians Screech About ‘KGB’ Spies After City Simply Checks Church’s Zoning Permit | Alternet

Whatever the truth, it's clear that Lake Worth really stepped on a hornet's nest.

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