Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why should religion get special treatment?

There are currently at least two lawsuits outstanding by religious organizations against cities for enforcing their zoning ordinances prohibiting home businesses. A group of Buddhists in Pennsylvania, and a group of evangelical Christians in California, are both suing their respective cities for prohibiting them under the city's residential zoning ordinances from holding study/worship sessions that clog residential streets with fifteen cars or more in local homes.

The deal is that most cities have ordinances strictly regulating home businesses. Home businesses are basically restricted to businesses that do not attract traffic or require infrastructure that would disrupt the residential nature of the neighborhood or disturb the neighbors. For example, any business that attracts more vehicles than will fit into the driveway of the home may be prohibited, which basically prohibits retail businesses of any sort. And if the business will have more than five employees or clients at a time, it is strictly prohibited in a residentially zoned area. So if a church study group is attracting more than five people in addition to the people who live in the house, it's not allowed by zoning ordinances that cover business use of residentially-zoned properties.

Now, churches may claim that they are not a business and thus do not need to comply with zoning ordinances. They may claim that they are a study group and no different from, say, a private dinner party, in their use of the residence. But when you consider the cash flow that goes through churches, and the regularity of these study groups, that is clearly not the case. A dinner party happens maybe once a month on some random night. A church meeting every Sunday, on the other hand, is a different tale. Churches are incorporated as non-profit organizations because, duh, they're businesses.

Not that this is stopping churches from suing for special treatment... sigh. It's just wonderful how churches scream "persecution! persecution!" every time a city tries to enforce its sane and reasonable zoning laws equally against all businesses...

-- Badtux the "Equal treatment is persecution?!" Penguin


  1. I wonder if these "persecuted" religious groups have ever heard the term "carpool," it sounds like thye are trying to build a fellowship anyway.

    Yeesh, I'm disgusted.

  2. Also makes me wonder if they have ever heard of the term "community room". Many libraries, malls, apartment complexes, etc. have community rooms that can be used by non-profits for free. These places are set up with the parking and road access to handle fifteen people showing up for study / worship services, unlike residential neighborhoods.

    - Badtux the Practical Penguin


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