The New York Times is in full attack mode as it explores legal exemptions churches enjoy from certain regulatory and discrimination laws. Clearly the NYT is disturbed by this, because of course religious organizations should be heavily regulated by the government. Of course a big part of the problem is that churches have overreached their mandates, getting into a number of dubious enterprises that have no obvious connection to religion. This creates a wedge point that the NYT is quick to exploit:
As a result of these special breaks, religious organizations of all faiths stand in a position that American businesses — and the thousands of nonprofit groups without that “religious” label — can only envy. And the new breaks come at a time when many religious organizations are expanding into activities — from day care centers to funeral homes, from ice cream parlors to fitness clubs, from bookstores to broadcasters — that compete with these same businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Religious organizations are exempt from many federal, state and local laws and regulations covering social services, including addiction treatment centers and child care, like those in Alabama.
I support the widest possible latitude for churches and religious organizations. With regulation comes the exact sort of state endorsed religion that the First Amendment seeks to avoid. Government intrusion would be the beginning of churches going underground in order to practice their religion as their conscience dictates. But churches are inviting disaster by not tending to their knitting. Exactly why any church needs a staff of baristas is unclear.