Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nanny State Hand In Hand With The Big Brother

Many of us have already heard the news about the new set of regulations which the city of Brampton, Ontario plans to impose on churches. Those regulations go far beyond removing the tax-exempt status from church properties that are not used for worship. The proposal also suggests there should be no more than one church for every 10,000 residents.

Since the above ratio limits Brampton to about 45 places of worship (churches, synagogues, Hindu temples etc), the proposal slaps major restrictions on new church start-ups, regulating what space these start-ups could rent, where, and for how long. Major increases in permitting fees for things like zoning and variance issues are proposed for the existing churches, with an obvious intention to drive Brampton's "surplus" churches (that are over 100) into bankruptcy.

Finally, the proposal restricts house churches to no more than 20 people - children included. This is presented as a measure to address parking issues in residential areas. But if parking was the concern - the city could just enforce the parking rules. At worst they could suggest restricting the number of vehicles that could be parked in a single driveway, not the number of people that attend home-based prayer circles. Apparently someone in the City Hall is eager to see Brampton more secular.

But there's more to it than just an attack on religion. Let's take another look at the proposed property tax rules:
All "non-worship space" owned by religious organizations (offices, kitchens, nurseries, fellowship halls, parking lots, etc) would become subject to property taxes.
The study recommends a redefinition of what constitutes "places of worship" - including a removal of provisions expressly allowing church properties to be used for "community services" such as day care centres, soup kitchens, etc.
So the churches will not only lose their tax exempt status - they'll also be denied their charitable function in the community. But why would the City Hall want to shut down church-run soup kitchens and daycares? It's not like we have surplus of those in our cities...

The only possible explanation is that the City Hall wants to leave the residents with fewer choices for child care, charities and other community services, thus creating more demand for the government-run child care services and social assistance.
Aggressive outreach - the process of actively soliciting trade for social workers. Generally employed when ‘customers’ fail to show required enthusiasm for services on offer.
That's double-plus ungood, comrades. I won't be surprised if it turns out that those who drafted the plan count on artificial shortage of food banks and daycare spaces to get more people supporting the left-wing parties that promise universal "McDaycare" for kids and higher welfare payments for adults.

So what could be done about it? First - we need to have more Social Conservatives in the city councils. Most of us tend to neglect the municipal level politics, choosing to deal with nation-wide issues instead. But let's not forget that it's the city officials that issue zoning permit for churches, appoint social workers and decide whether or not Christmas celebrations should be allowed on public property. So it is important that we take back the municipal councils - with all the affiliated organizations such as school boards, hospital directorates etc.

Second - let this be a lesson to the spiritual leaders of all faiths, to all those who chose to distance themselves from debates over social issues, to avoid losing the tax-exempt status for their church. Most of Brampton churches too preferred to stay silent on issues like fetal rights and the sanctity of marriage - is that helping them now in any way? I hope it becomes clear to more clergymen that playing nice guy with the secular fundamentalist government doesn't mean that the government will always be nice to you; that accepting the iron-clad rule of separating religion from politics may result in politicians separating your church from whatever rights it may still have.

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