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.

Because a wooden reindeer just wasn't enough

Several weeks ago Bunny bought several planks of nice wood for some projects, among them this plank of white oak:

[8″ wide, 1¼″ thick (having been planed down), several feet long]

She cut off about an 8″ section off one end because of a hairline crack in the wood, and it was this chunk of wood that, as odd as it may seem, “spoke” to me. I thought I could make a neat little box with that chunk of wood. So after work, I spent about three hours in the garage playing around with the power tools. [Have fun, just be careful not to cut your fingers off! —Bunny] [I won't cut my fingers off. —Sean]

First job, slicing off thin pieces of wood to form the top, botton and sides. The wood was too tall for the bandsaw, so I had to resort to using the table saw for slicing the wood. I used a scrap piece of wood to measure the kerf of the blade (eighth of an inch—wow!), and taking the width of the wood into account (1¼″) I figured I could get about four slices, each about 3/8″ wide. Usually when using the table saw for this type of cut, you raise the blade as high as it can go, make one pass, flip the piece over and cut a second pass, thus cutting a slice off. But I couldn't raise the blade high enough—two passes wouldn't be enough. I ended up having to make four passes, cut, flip 180° along the cut for cut two, turn 90° for cut three, then another 180° flip for the final cut. That left about an inch square in the middle, which required the use of a ryōba, a very thin and very deadly double-sided saw from Japan.

[Two slices done, working on the third slice (the piece standing on edge). You can make out the portion the table saw didn't cut on the flat piece to the left.  Also on that piece you can see the hairline crack that Bunny was concerned about.  At this point, I wasn't worried about it.]

While cutting the first slab, I made a mistake when flipping the board over (180° perpendicular to the cut), which meant I wasn't getting the four slices I had intended. I ended up with three 3/8″ pieces, and one seriously mangled fourth piece that ended up in the scrap pile. Sigh.

My original intent was to cut two of the slabs in half for the sides, making the box about 4″ tall, but because of the mistake I was forced to make the box thinner. No big deal, as this is a learning experience. I took one of the three pieces, made some measurements, took the kerf into account, and cut the four sides.

Now … how to join them?

The cut boards are 3/8″ thick, that's pretty thin actually, and I was concerned that my original idea, a miter joint, just wasn't going to work. I then thought that maybe finger joints would work, and I started to experiment with some scrap pieces of wood. [You'll shoot your eye out! —Bunny] [I'm working with a table saw, not a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and thing which tells time. —Sean] [Well then … you'll cut your fingers off! —Bunny] That wasn't going to work.

It looked like simple butt joints were the way to go.

This was when I realized my next mistake. I had cut across the hairline crack in the wood when making the sides; by now two of the sides had snapped along the crack, leaving me with two short sides. I was bound and determined to just use the slab of wood I started with, so another change in plans—making not a square box but a rectangular box. I could take into account Bunny's concerns over the crack in the top and bottom of the box by just cutting it off; it meant I would lose two inches in one dimension.

I then decided, what the heck, let's make it a 6″×6″ box.

It's not like I'm following any set plans here.

Next step—sanding. The belt sander would make short work of this, but there was an issue—

[This is not good.]

The board was so thin, the belt sander was forcing the wood down into this gap between the work surface and the sanding belt. The solution: a sacrificial board to “mind the gap” as it were.

[Okay, time for some serious sanding.]

Which was then followed up by some “hand” sanding:

[Yeah, right.  Like I wouldn't use a power tool here.]

One last step for the day— gluing up the sides of the box. Bunny has a ratcheting strap clamp. It's a strap with four plastic “corners” (think a hocky puck with a quarter slice cut out). You place the corners of the box in the four “corner” pieces, then tighten the strap down with the ratchet. Unfortunately, my box was just too small for this to work. The ratchet requires a miminum amount of space, and 6″ wasn't enough since the ratchet sits inline with the strap (although, now that I've found a picture of it in use, I think I wasn't using it correctly; I've just checked, and yes, I could have used it. Maybe. It was a very tight fit).

Okay, I needed to ensure the sides were square. There's the table saw fence. I could use that to square off one side. I could then use the miter gauge to ensure a right angle to the fence. Add in some clamps and …

[I had to think outside the box to box this up.]

Hey, it gets the job done.

I'm leaving the glue to dry overnight and tomorrow I'll glue on the top and the bottom, cut the lid, add some finish to the outside and felt the inside and then I'm done.

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