California megachurch kicked off land by city seeking Costco's tax revenue
It sounds like a joke, or some contrived sermon illustration about Christianity versus consumerism. But the town of Cyprus, California, really did vote unanimously to seize 18 acres from megachurch Cottonwood Christian Center so the city could bring in a Costco discount store. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Cottonwood in its legal fight against the city government, says the action "is an extraordinary abuse of governmental power and cavalier disregard of basic constitutional rights."
The Cyprus City Council still doesn't get it. "Everybody says 'Gosh, how can you stand up against a church?'" Councilman Tim Keenan tells the Los Angeles Times. "You need to look at this as a land-use issue and take the church out of it. Everyone needs to follow the rules. I don't see why a church needs special treatment."
Even more than that, the council members are setting themselves up as martyrs in the battle. "We've been the object of a nationwide and, frankly, a worldwide propaganda campaign that can only be described as malicious," Keenan told the Los Angeles Times yesterday. "My conscience is clear."
Let's be clear: This is about money. A Costco, the Times says, "can generate as much as $900,0000 in sales tax revenue annually, according to city projections." A tax-exempt church generates none. "Our reasons are to protect the city's vision for Cypressthe creation of jobs and revenue," David Belmer, the city's economic-development director, told The Orange County Register.
Propaganda campaign or not, the case is receiving widespread attention. "An Oklahoma firm recently sent 50,000 glossy mailers lambasting Cypress officials, and legal organizations in Washington, D.C., and Colorado are drafting motions on behalf of the church," reports the Times. Even The Wall Street Journal is weighing in. "The powers of eminent domain are tricky enough when exercised for highways, schools or other public uses," the paper editorializes today. "But when invoked on behalf of a private business it represents the worst form of political collusion. Our advice to Cottonwood is not to turn the other cheek."
Whatever the outcome, the fight has created opponents of both the city council and Cottonwood Christian Center. "I hear everyone talking about what our city has done, and I'm thinking: 'There are five ignorant people on my council and how the heck do I get them off?'" Lynne McDaniel told the Register. Another resident told the paper, "We're tired of this big church trying to bully the city by busing its members in from all around the county to harass our City Council. Given the behavior of the church, we're not seeing its spiritual value. I'm not sure we want them in town."
Religious health workers can't be forced to dispense "morning-after" pills, federal court says
A federal jury awarded 28-year-old Michelle Diaz $19,000 in back pay and more than $28,000 in damages in her religious discrimination and free speech suit against a California health clinic. Diaz was fired after she refused to dispense the "morning-after" pill, which inhibits the implantation of fertilized eggs. "When that sperm and that egg meet, that was my child's life, and my life and your life," Diaz said after the verdict was announced. "And that is how every other life is going to begin. When that life starts, I cannot infringe on that. I won't be a part of ending that." County officials say they'll ask a district judge to set the verdict aside.
It will be interesting to see if this controversy ever meets up with one brewing on the other side of the country, as New York's public hospitals are requiring all residents to learn how to perform abortions.
The View bleeps out Jesus
Here's part of last Thursday's episode of The View, the ABC talk show that Barbara Walters is often on.
Meredith Vieira: "So yesterday, yesterday if you saw this show, you know it was the last day of the weigh-in, the scale is gone."
Joy Behar: "Yes, and thank you, thank you, Jesus, is all I have to say! Goodbye to that damn scale and this whole diet. I'm sick of it!"
Guess which part of Behar's comment got bleeped. (Okay. So Weblog just told you in the subhead.) On Tuesday's show, the View ladies complained. "I think it was stupid to beep that," Star Jones said. "They let us say all kinds of things on TV, but they beep Jesus? That makes no sense!" Behar complained that Jones gets to say Jesus all the time. "How come the black girl can say it and the white girl can't? I protest! Jesus and I are pals, okay? Get with the program!"
Church and state:
- Unholy war: Christians accused of hate | A Melbourne Christian group has been accused of vilifying Muslims in what could be a test case for Victoria's controversial new race and religious hate laws. (Herald Sun, Melbourne)
- Colorado teacher loses bid to block graduation prayer | Meanwhile, ACLU plans lawsuit to prevent West Virginia high school from including prayer during commencement. (Associated Press)
- Prayer dispute remains civil | Students say they respect each other's position (Associated Press)
- Judge axes suit targeting Bush's religious talk | Courts have no authority to restrain a president from acting in a particular fashion, says ruling (The Sacramento Bee)
- Laws of God and men | Lexington lawyer makes a career arguing Christians' First Amendment cases (Lexington [Mass.] Herald-Leader)
- Florida town goes for separation of Satan, state | Mayor issues ban on devil; new commissioner says residents distracted from practical issues (The Orlando Sentinel / Dallas Morning News)
- Court okays use of religious pot on federal lands | Appellate ruling applies to 9 Western states, territories (San Francisco Chronicle)
Politics and law:
- EEOC files religious conviction lawsuit | Woman said helping customers solve problems with their violent videogames violated her beliefs (Religion News Service)
- Spanking trial starts with muzzle | Provincial judge issues sweeping publication ban upon everything from the names of all witnesses to reporting of virtually all of the evidence, as well as prohibiting photographs and even artists' sketches of all the central players (The National Post, Canada)
- Ga. court reinstates video poker ban | State banned the machines last summer, but the measure was never enforced (Associated Press)
- Drink ban guide stays | Alcohol still won't be in the Church of Scotland's church halls (The Scotsman)
- Trinity Church files lawsuits seeking rent from tenants | Several haven't paid since September 11 (The Wall Street Journal)
- Republicans find vouchers alternative | Education tax-credit proposal they say will increase investment in both public and private schools and allow more parents to send their children to private schools if they choose, say House leaders (The Washington Times)
- Abortion patients' pictures posted online | Photographs taken outside clinics (WLWT, Cincinnati)
- Abortion: still a dirty word | Where did the recent creeping fetus fetishism come from? I'm glad I had all my abortions. (Julie Burchill, The Guardian)
- The morality of cloning | The anticloning bill is a dangerous exercise in panic-mongering that could retard or foreclose lifesaving advances in medicine. Nevertheless, critics of cloning and genetic engineering have valid concerns. (Cathy Young, The Boston Globe)
- Cloning for transplant may produce fatal genetic imbalances | Plans to clone human embryos to generate vital stem cells for transplant operations are likely to fail using the techniques currently available (The Independent, London)
- Documentary explores ritual of Amish temptation | Devil's Playground premieres tonight on Cinemax (The Dallas Morning News)
- Also: The dangers of a date with the outside world | Making a documentary about Amish teenagers abusing drugs and alcohol presents some obvious problems. (The New York Times)
- Gospel rocker faces trial as sex offender | Christopher Comtois toured and opened for Rebecca St. James. (The Orlando Sentinel)
- P.O.D. on the prowl for bad girls | Rap-rockers looking to sign all-female act to their new record label. (MTV News)
- Spiritual Survivors | The winner of this season's "Survivor" challenge added a new twist to the game's hygienic humiliations and multi-level betrayals: she invoked God's name to justify and defend her actions. (The Salt Lake Tribune)
- Anne Lamott's subversive faith | God used a tiny Presbyterian congregation to teach this best-selling author about the power of unconditional love (Presbyterians Today)
- An academic ready to take the plunge into novelistic success | Stephen L. Carter, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University, tall, slender, elegantly dressed in his beautifully cut sports jacket and silk tie, is so good he could be boring were he not the author of one of the season's biggest novels, The Emperor of Ocean Park, a legal thriller about black upper class America, to be published next month. (The New York Times)
- Also: Stephen Carter's Christianity Today columns
- British painter suffers crucifixion for his art | Sebastian Horsley, an artist from London has paid £2,000 to be crucified in the Philippines so that he could heighten his artistic senses by pushing himself to an "extreme of suffering" (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- God squad | The church can learn from faith in the beautiful game of soccer (Editorial, The Times, London)
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