Friday, April 05, 2013

Why tax churches?

 the stories about taxing churches or using the zoning code to keep churches (or nowadays Mosques) from building a new facility always brings up the nasty comments.

If you’re a municipality trying to pay for roads, consider the irritant of religious organizations buying land in light industrial zones, forever being exempt from taxes...
what they are ignoring is the Halo Effect

So what’s the halo effect? It’s a term coined by secular researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who questioned how to put a price tag on the investment that local congregations generate for the public good. They found that 12 Philadelphia congregations contributed $52-million in annual economic value to the city. More consumers put money directly into the economy, buying goods and services locally as weddings and funerals made the cash registers ring. Education and social services were part of the payoff, with programs for children, parents and the elderly.
The office space that churches provide for non-profits, counsellors and charities also had an economic spinoff. So, too, did personal impact, and it’s hard for me to not grovel in gratefulness on that point. When my teenager needed a place to scream on a guitar with a gang who bashed out punk music, our church let the boys into a basement youth room every day after school. Those four boys turned into great Canadian citizens, but imagine if we make it harder for access to community programs for the elderly, divorce recovery groups, AA meetings and so on. “We intercept so much trouble the city doesn’t even see,” said Bill Dyck, a Queen Street West pastor whose church plays host to dozens of street-involved people every Saturday night.

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