Are megachurches the next suburban bogeymen?
Anyone involved in building a new church—or business building for that matter—knows the difficulties of being a good neighbor. (Christianity Today's parent company is currently facing community opposition to building our new headquarters, for example.)
But perhaps the most controversial buildings, reports USA Today, are America's 700 megachurches (congregations with more than 2,000 worshipers each week). "Sprouting up in the countryside, suburbs and cities, many of these giant houses of worship are antagonizing neighbors and local officials who say the churches cause noise, traffic jams and environmental damage," writes Haya El Nasser. "Churches also are exempt from property taxes, and some communities bemoan the loss of revenue that they could otherwise collect for roads, police and other services."
Well, some might say, at least it's a church and not a McDonald's, hotel, day-care center, bank, bookstore, or health club. As the city attorney of Greenwood Village, a swank suburb of Denver, said, "If this was a Kmart, the city could've denied the special use permit without running afoul of federal law." Since it's a church, it's protected.
Only these megachurches often serve as a restaurant, hotel, bank, etc.—offering even more services than Kmart—and if they weren't in the church, they wouldn't be allowed in residential neighborhoods.
All these amenities mean that the church is busy all week long, not just Sunday mornings. Good for the church, bad for the Nimbys. But there's not much that opponents can do about it.
"Churches, protected both by the First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression and by a sweeping new federal law, are proving to be powerful adversaries," writes ...1
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