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Author Topic: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?  (Read 2756 times)

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Offline JuliusCaesar

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #25 on: February 26, 2013, 12:41:19 PM »
Seems a bit odd for the government to benefit from not having to provide food or shelter to some people due to a community place of worship, and then deny that same place of worship needed aide.

In this case, I don't believe the government is "benefiting" from not providing food, shelter, etc. for Community A due to HoW assistance. There are budgets; money not used for Community A instead provides food, shelter, etc. for Community B. "I'd like assistance now because I let you rally on my lawn last year" seems silly. If the church helped Mr. Congressman rally, Mr. Congressman probably paid the church to use its property in the first place up front OR, when asked for assistance, wrote a personal check to the church instead of allocating government funds.

We should also ask the people in these communities what they're doing to give back to their HoWs. It's not the government's responsibility to bolster them because HoWs don't pay taxes. I have faith (no pun intended) that religious communities are strong and help their own. Say Mr. Construction Contractor's local church helped him garner funds to pay for his wife's life-saving surgery. He could "pay the church back" by donating workers, equipment, and/or time from his company in the wake of a natural disaster. Even someone who doesn't own a business like Mr. Construction Contractor and benefited from the church, like a patron of a soup kitchen, has two hands and can help do something in the way of physical labor.

And, I may be wrong on this point, I don't assume that all individual church coffers are private -- it makes sense to me that churches would help each other out in times of need. Even if the coffers are individually private, wouldn't a Lutheran church in Iowa wire over some money or volunteers to help out a Lutheran church in New Jersey? Or what's stopping a Maine synagogue from helping a New York church? Or an atheist from helping a Connecticut mosque?

People help each other when they need it, especially when they've been helped reciprocally in the past.

What's stopping anyone from helping anyone when it's the right thing to do?

I think it does a benevolent HoW a disservice to say that the government "owes" it anything and that it would fall into dissolution without FEMA aid. Plus, what's stopping someone from worshipping amongst white-washed walls instead of stained glass? Does it really matter? Will someone's god not listen to them because they're not in a pretty room?
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 12:46:00 PM by JuliusCaesar »

Offline vtboy

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #26 on: March 04, 2013, 11:11:07 AM »
While I am a big advocate for separation of Church and State, there is a problem here as this does affect the general populace and their ability to recover.  Many places of worship double as storm shelters, food kitchens and temporary housing for an affected populace.  Community centers run by religious organizations are often turned into places for people to find solace, community, help and assistance.  Many times the government will use such centers of the community to rally and relay messages.  A great deal of assistance comes from many of these organizations both within the community and from without.  So denying aide to these institutions also hurts the people because those people are turning toward these organizations for aide at their moment of greatest need.  These places and groups also alleviate the government’s responsibility in terms of manpower and finances. 

Seems a bit odd for the government to benefit from not having to provide food or shelter to some people due to a community place of worship, and then deny that same place of worship needed aide.

Your premise seems to be that the government is under some obligation to furnish financial support to religious institutions which provide services to their communities.  If so, what limits the government's purported obligation to disaster relief? Wouldn't your premise require government to fund church operations, generally, at least to the extent they encompass soup kitchens, storm shelters, bereavement counselling, and the like?

« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 11:15:04 AM by vtboy »

Offline Rhapsody

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #27 on: March 05, 2013, 05:29:03 AM »
Your premise seems to be that the government is under some obligation to furnish financial support to religious institutions which provide services to their communities.  If so, what limits the government's purported obligation to disaster relief? Wouldn't your premise require government to fund church operations, generally, at least to the extent they encompass soup kitchens, storm shelters, bereavement counselling, and the like?

Most of those churches are also pretty wealthy in their own right. Perhaps not the individual churches, but the Vatican isn't exactly hurting, and it's my guess that Islam and Judaism have similar tithing practices. Local churches might be hurting, but their first recourse should be to apply for relief from their own power structure.

I have the same problem with the government handing out money to churches that I did with Anne Romney's dancing horse getting a free ticket to London last year: if they can afford it themselves without even so much as blinking, the taxpayers should not be responsible for it.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #28 on: March 06, 2013, 05:13:20 PM »
My premise is that a community in distress needs to have the pillars and centers of that community restored.  Often times, particularly for urban minorities, that center is a local place of worship or religious run community center.  Such structures and places of worship provide a place of assistance for those groups, a center for organization of various civic leaders and a place of solace for those families.  Communities congregate there and so having those places rebuilt is an important part of that community continuing to go forward.  Denying that center funds simply because of being religious likewise denies the community an important step to recovery.  Part of any attempt to rebuild an area is recognizing the socially significant and important institutions and working through them, often which are a place of religious worship.

Saying that such places are rich is a bad generalization.  A poor area is not going to have a rich center of worship.  There are exceptions as in all things, but typically an impoverished area is likewise having an impoverished house of worship.  Also, does a person’s wealth truly matter when a disaster comes?  Do rich people not require assist when their homes are taken away or their belonging stripped of them?  Simply because someone is or was rich does not mean they are immune to the wrath of a disaster.  The government gives plenty of money to corporations (which pay little to almost no taxes) to help them rebuild operations and restore employment to the community.

 As for stain glass windows and such, that is up to the leader of that house of worship just as the use of government assistance if up to the recipient in all other cases.  A home owner can decide to spend all that money on a new movie theatre for their home rather than fixing their roof.  If a house of worship would rather a shiny set of stain glass windows than a roof, then let them suffer the consequences.

Offline vtboy

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #29 on: March 07, 2013, 07:24:46 AM »
My premise is that a community in distress needs to have the pillars and centers of that community restored.  Often times, particularly for urban minorities, that center is a local place of worship or religious run community center.  Such structures and places of worship provide a place of assistance for those groups, a center for organization of various civic leaders and a place of solace for those families.  Communities congregate there and so having those places rebuilt is an important part of that community continuing to go forward.  Denying that center funds simply because of being religious likewise denies the community an important step to recovery.  Part of any attempt to rebuild an area is recognizing the socially significant and important institutions and working through them, often which are a place of religious worship.

Saying that such places are rich is a bad generalization.  A poor area is not going to have a rich center of worship.  There are exceptions as in all things, but typically an impoverished area is likewise having an impoverished house of worship.  Also, does a person’s wealth truly matter when a disaster comes?  Do rich people not require assist when their homes are taken away or their belonging stripped of them?  Simply because someone is or was rich does not mean they are immune to the wrath of a disaster.  The government gives plenty of money to corporations (which pay little to almost no taxes) to help them rebuild operations and restore employment to the community.

 As for stain glass windows and such, that is up to the leader of that house of worship just as the use of government assistance if up to the recipient in all other cases.  A home owner can decide to spend all that money on a new movie theatre for their home rather than fixing their roof.  If a house of worship would rather a shiny set of stain glass windows than a roof, then let them suffer the consequences.

Let's imagine two small towns, A and B, in both of which the majority of residents are members of the Great Turtle religion. The towns are substantially identical in every other significant respect, except the following: town A's Great Turtlites have a church which, in times of disaster (fires, storms, blackouts, etc.) has opened its doors to neighbors in need of shelter; the B Turtlites have no church, but plan to build one, and, like their brethren in A, would use it to shelter neighbors in times of distress. Unfortunately, the faithful in town B do not have the funds to realize their aspiration.

An earthquake strikes, demolishing town A's Great Turtle church. The cost of rebuilding exceeds the financial capacity of town A's faithful. Now neither congregation has a church and neither has any hope (absent divine intervention) of constructing one without taxpayer assistance. The Great Turtlites of both towns petition the government for construction funds.

I think there can be little controversy that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment bars government from building a house of worship for the B Turtlites. I don't see how the A Turtlites stand in a materially distinguishable position. Like those in town A, they have no house of worship and are asking the government to give them one. What am I missing?   

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #30 on: March 07, 2013, 08:19:51 AM »
Government aide goes to rebuild, not build anew.  This would be similar to making an argument that a property owner who had no house on their land is petitioning the government for aide to build one after a storm.  The government program is already setup to evaluate damage, not what the person wanted to be there.  If a congregation wants to setup a new Church then the funds they were saving and are untouched by the disaster would go there.  If they decided to spend the money elsewhere then that is their prerogative.  The church though was not an integral part of the community as say the other group, where a long standing church was there providing a service.  This makes the already established church part of the community and a seemingly important part if they provide community services.  Thereby re-establishment of a community would involve that structure, not so with the other.

Offline Caehlim

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #31 on: March 07, 2013, 08:49:30 AM »
I'm conflicted.

These churches would often be important to the members of the community and to leave them destroyed seems heartless.

Yet at the same time I'm not sure if it's the government's role or even appropriate for them to be funding their rebuilding.

It's a difficult choice and I'm not decided.

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Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #32 on: March 07, 2013, 09:46:53 AM »
Alternatively, I would point out that the government funds going to non-religious institutions would leave more available funds for construction/reconstruction of religious buildings in the hands of the populace.  If I'm not having to pay out money to rebuild my home, I would be able to contribute my unspent money to rebuilding the church - assuming that the church was important to me.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #33 on: March 07, 2013, 09:50:07 AM »
That is not necessarily true though.  If government funds did not go to rebuild a religious institution that perhaps provided free after school programs for the young, tutoring programs, daycare services, soup kitchens and the like then the populace must now take their funds to provide their own services.  Whereas if the government had helped rebuild that religious center which already had an infrastructure to support such services, the populace has more money.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 09:52:50 AM by Pumpkin Seeds »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #34 on: March 07, 2013, 11:24:06 AM »
That is not necessarily true though.  If government funds did not go to rebuild a religious institution that perhaps provided free after school programs for the young, tutoring programs, daycare services, soup kitchens and the like then the populace must now take their funds to provide their own services.  Whereas if the government had helped rebuild that religious center which already had an infrastructure to support such services, the populace has more money.

...or the government could just provide those services, without the extra overhead of running a religious institution on top, and suddenly there's more money to go around for everyone. Just a thought.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #35 on: March 07, 2013, 11:52:49 AM »
...or the government could just provide those services, without the extra overhead of running a religious institution on top, and suddenly there's more money to go around for everyone. Just a thought.

I suspect overheads would work the other way round - that is, it'd be cheaper to give money to the religious institution and use their infrastructure, staff, etc etc etc rather than create that afresh.  If the choice is "build and staff brand new soup kitchen" or "use existing venue" then it'd be strange if the former was cheaper.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #36 on: March 07, 2013, 12:16:19 PM »
I suspect overheads would work the other way round - that is, it'd be cheaper to give money to the religious institution and use their infrastructure, staff, etc etc etc rather than create that afresh.  If the choice is "build and staff brand new soup kitchen" or "use existing venue" then it'd be strange if the former was cheaper.

If that were the choice, you'd be correct. But we're talking about places in which that infrastructure has been destroyed - the entire pro argument, as I see it, is "If the government doesn't supply funds to rebuild, people will be without these services."

Offline Rhapsody

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #37 on: March 07, 2013, 12:32:11 PM »
Saying that such places are rich is a bad generalization.  A poor area is not going to have a rich center of worship.  There are exceptions as in all things, but typically an impoverished area is likewise having an impoverished house of worship.  Also, does a person’s wealth truly matter when a disaster comes?  Do rich people not require assist when their homes are taken away or their belonging stripped of them?  Simply because someone is or was rich does not mean they are immune to the wrath of a disaster.  The government gives plenty of money to corporations (which pay little to almost no taxes) to help them rebuild operations and restore employment to the community.

I didn't say the individual churches are rich. In fact, I specifically said "Perhaps not the individual churches", though some of them certainly take in more than their fair share of the tithes. What I said was that their power structure was wealthy, and that their first recourse should be apply to that power structure (like the Vatican, which is ridiculously wealthy, which comes in a large part from international donations IE: the congregations) for relief.

Offline vtboy

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #38 on: March 07, 2013, 12:51:48 PM »
Government aide goes to rebuild, not build anew.  This would be similar to making an argument that a property owner who had no house on their land is petitioning the government for aide to build one after a storm.  The government program is already setup to evaluate damage, not what the person wanted to be there.  If a congregation wants to setup a new Church then the funds they were saving and are untouched by the disaster would go there.  If they decided to spend the money elsewhere then that is their prerogative.  The church though was not an integral part of the community as say the other group, where a long standing church was there providing a service.  This makes the already established church part of the community and a seemingly important part if they provide community services.  Thereby re-establishment of a community would involve that structure, not so with the other.

There is no constitutional prohibition to government's funding construction projects, whether to rebuild a damaged structure or to build a new one, as long as the project would not violate a constitutionally protected right or otherwise exceed the government's constitutionally limited powers. Without offense to the constitution, the government could, for example, give people money, either to rebuild homes lost to some catastrophe or to build first homes. Similarly, there is no constitutional proscription against the government funding municipal projects designed to provide services to communities in times of hardship.   

The government's doling out of funds to build or to rebuild churches is quite another matter, however. The First Amendment bars the government from acting for the purpose of either supporting or burdening religion. It does not distinguish between churches which have become "an integral part of the community" and those which have not. In fact, were the government to prefer established churches over new ones in the distribution of funds, a compelling argument could be made that, by favoring one congregation or sect over another, its action would violate the Free Exercise Clause, as well as the Establishment Clause.   

The reason the government cannot fund the construction of a church for the B Turtlites is not that the church would be a new structure, but that such support would violate the First Amendment. In this respect, government's funding the reconstruction of the A Turtlites' church would be every bit as constitutionally offensive as its giving money to the B Turtlites to build anew. 
« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 12:58:27 PM by vtboy »

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #39 on: March 07, 2013, 01:26:18 PM »
Rhapsody, you are assuming a Catholic Church for the most part.  Protestant churches tend to be highly individualized.  Also there are temples, Jewish synagogues, mosques and so on that do not have access to such a structure as the Vatican.  Still, even then a lot of Catholic Churches are still left to their own devices and must do their own fund raising.

Infrastructure is not just a physical locality Ephiral.  Infrastructure is also staff, planning, design and the method of implementation.  Already having run a certain setup or service before means that running that service again will be faster and cheaper than having to start from scratch.  The government, as been seen in the past, also has little interest in running many of these types of programs.

Nothing does prevent the government from constructing new buildings, but that is not how disaster relief works.  Disaster relief works by the government coming into an area hit by a storm, seeing the damage, assessing the cost of the damage and writing checks to repair what was there.  They do not build what wasn’t there.  The government does not build someone a house when they did not have one.  Just as they would not build a church that wasn’t there.

Offline vtboy

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #40 on: March 07, 2013, 02:24:12 PM »
Nothing does prevent the government from constructing new buildings, but that is not how disaster relief works.  Disaster relief works by the government coming into an area hit by a storm, seeing the damage, assessing the cost of the damage and writing checks to repair what was there.  They do not build what wasn’t there.  The government does not build someone a house when they did not have one.  Just as they would not build a church that wasn’t there.

That government will not build a house for someone who did not have one, does not mean it is prohibited from building the house. It is, however, prohibited by the First Amendment from either building or rebuilding a church.

Offline Rhapsody

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #41 on: March 07, 2013, 02:27:00 PM »
Rhapsody, you are assuming a Catholic Church for the most part.  Protestant churches tend to be highly individualized.  Also there are temples, Jewish synagogues, mosques and so on that do not have access to such a structure as the Vatican.  Still, even then a lot of Catholic Churches are still left to their own devices and must do their own fund raising.

Infrastructure is not just a physical locality Ephiral.  Infrastructure is also staff, planning, design and the method of implementation.  Already having run a certain setup or service before means that running that service again will be faster and cheaper than having to start from scratch.  The government, as been seen in the past, also has little interest in running many of these types of programs.

Nothing does prevent the government from constructing new buildings, but that is not how disaster relief works.  Disaster relief works by the government coming into an area hit by a storm, seeing the damage, assessing the cost of the damage and writing checks to repair what was there.  They do not build what wasn’t there.  The government does not build someone a house when they did not have one.  Just as they would not build a church that wasn’t there.

You are persisting in not fully reading my comments.

Most of those churches are also pretty wealthy in their own right. Perhaps not the individual churches, but the Vatican isn't exactly hurting, and it's my guess that Islam and Judaism have similar tithing practices. Local churches might be hurting, but their first recourse should be to apply for relief from their own power structure.

I have the same problem with the government handing out money to churches that I did with Anne Romney's dancing horse getting a free ticket to London last year: if they can afford it themselves without even so much as blinking, the taxpayers should not be responsible for it.

I bolded it for you.

And some further, cursory research indicates that synagogues have yearly membership fees, and Islam has a Pillar called "Zakāt" (or "alms giving"). So practices of tithing to charity and religious houses seems to be a common theme. This are tax-free donations and, as Christianity, Islam and Judaism have old, well-established structures, I'm almost positive there's a collection of wealth trickling upwards. 

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Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #42 on: March 07, 2013, 02:29:42 PM »
You are persisting in not fully reading my comments.

I bolded it for you.


In fairness, you bolded PART of your comment.  Here, I've bolded the rest of it for you
Quote
and it's my guess that Islam and Judaism have similar tithing practices.

I'm not sure its fair to criticise her for overlooking that bit.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #43 on: March 07, 2013, 02:34:00 PM »
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." – First Ammendment

The clause does not say that government will not help religious institutions struck by disaster.  Governmental agencies would simply be giving money to another business applying for government assistance.  Which considering most of said assistance is actually comprised of SBA loans, this becomes even less of an issue.


Yes Rhapsody, I read your comment and once more put forward that communities with money will have houses of worship with money.  Poor communities, more devastatingly struck, will have impoverished houses of worship.  Once more you are trying to bring up a great conspiracy of money hiding somewhere that may or may not exist.  If the government of the United States has difficulty recovering from a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, then somehow I doubt the smaller organization of the churches will fare better.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #44 on: March 07, 2013, 11:51:51 PM »
OK, so I build a religious temple in YOUR town called, "The First Church Of Lucifer". We teach that Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists are cancerous to mankind, and that through enlightenment, persuasion, and if needed, force, they *must* be converted to our faith.  I teach that members should aggressively preach and convert people in public, knock on their doors and hand out brochures even after being told to stay away. I also teach that only those who are bisexual cross dressers will be *saved* - the rest of society is Satan's scum and will burn for an eternity in a smelly lake of brimstone and fire.

Years later, hurricane sandy hits.. or something nasty like that and my glorious temple is blown down.

Should I not be entitled to some FIMA money to rebuild? After all, my organization provides public services, we offer free schooling and childcare to anyone who will attend. We offer free, blessed food to anyone who enters our temple. ( our meat is first offered up to demons, but doing so is harmless. ) Oh, did I forget to mention that we are tax exempt because we are a religion?


Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #45 on: March 08, 2013, 12:02:41 AM »
Yes actually.  I am guessing you had hoped to shock me into another answer, but I would contend that yes the house of worship should be rebuilt if they are providing public services to the community and as such are important to the community.  In this way the community is aided by the presence of this house of worship and provide an important role that should be re-established in order for the community to be rebuilt.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #46 on: March 08, 2013, 12:27:54 AM »
I would agree with you to a marginal degree only if this mock church paid taxes and if the payout was proportional to what they contributed in tax revenue and what they contributed to society. There is a big difference between a non-religious non profit organization and a tax exempt religious group.



Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #47 on: March 08, 2013, 12:51:12 AM »
Not in their serivce to the community and importance as a social institution in regard to the structure of that community, there is no difference.  Punishing a community for having a social institution that performs a great service and assists them but also happens to be religious rings of being spiteful and harmful.  As I have pointed out, most aide from FEMA is already tied up in a SBA loan so the church would simply be applying for a loan like every other buisness. 

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #48 on: March 08, 2013, 02:01:15 AM »
Not in their serivce to the community and importance as a social institution in regard to the structure of that community, there is no difference.  Punishing a community for having a social institution that performs a great service and assists them but also happens to be religious rings of being spiteful and harmful.  As I have pointed out, most aide from FEMA is already tied up in a SBA loan so the church would simply be applying for a loan like every other buisness.

My issue has more to do with them being tax exempt and being in favor of a subset of the population. If they paid taxes and did not favor people of a given religion, then I would be much more inclined to offer a measured portion of tax payer's money to help them rebuild.

As a tax payer, I do not want my tax payments going into the pockets of a group that caters only to their own. To a group that would exclude me based on religion.


Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #49 on: March 08, 2013, 03:16:18 AM »
So far as I am aware the services offered by most such institutions do not require membership in their groups or involvement in their activities.  One may have to listen to them preach their philosophies or faith while eating a hot meal, but if you take up a company on their charitable offer then you will have to sit through their expounding on their own greatness.

Now I would be in agreement that maybe such non-tax paying institutions should be ineligible for grants, but I would contest that the loan portion should be availble to them as this does not hurt the tax payer base any and still supports the community.