Monday, October 09, 2006


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.


Drew Kizer said...

A church in my hometown operates a daycare out of its facilities. Driving by, it is obvious that they are not being held to the same standards governing other child care facilities. Toys are strewn all over the yard, the children play in a area barely large enough to park a car, there is insufficient parking space, and the building is in disrepair. There's no telling what one would find on the inside.

The exempt status was set up for churches doing church business (e.g., worship, evangelism, etc.). "Religion" is what is protected under the first amendment. Since churches are now competing with businesses like gyms and coffee shops, they may lose the privileges they once had.

Timotheus said...

With regulation comes the exact sort of state endorsed religion that the First Amendment seeks to avoid.

Unfortunately we already have way too much state endorsement of religion -- chaplaincy in the military, the special exemption from compulsory education for the Amish, the special legal status given to Christian Science 'practitioners' to sign documents like medical doctors, etc. If I happened to be a member of a different sect that had similar beliefs on one of those matters, my rights would not be equally protected simply because my sect wasn't large enough to have lobbied for special treatment.