Churches—What are they good for?
Besides the (hopefully) obvious benefit that churches provide to those who are already part of the flock, so to speak, churches also provide many benefits to others in the community. These include both the spiritual and physical kind. So why is it that some government officials insist on treating churches and other religious groups as unwelcomed members of the community?
There are many instances of discrimination against churches across the country, but I’ll just discuss two. The first takes place in New York City where the school district has opened up its facilities to community groups when not in use. There are nearly 1200 individual school facilities that are opened up to nearly 10,000 separate community uses each year. Uses by groups such as J&R Pizza (an essential, coming from an Italian), Mouse, Inc. (afraid to ask), Peoples Rights (that must be important), Groove With Me (yeah, dude), Big Apple Circus (clowns are a bit creepy, but that’s a whole other thing), Crafty Ladies (I am assuming this is not ladies who are crafty, but who make crafts), Safe Space (of course), American Martyrs (not sure how long this group will last), Sex and the City filming (what can I say), and Dodge Ball Champions (they need a home, too). There are also several churches, such as the Bronx Household of Faith, and other religious organizations from a variety of faiths that use these facilities for their worship services, or at least have for the past more than fifteen years, until recently, that is.
The City has decided that the churches present more of a problem than do these other groups. What type of problems, you may ask. Well, apparently there are small children brought to tears because they think their school has literally been turned into a church when they meet there once a week. You heard it; that is what the school district claims. But are these (made-up) kids upset because the empty school building turns into a circus (no school jokes here, please), or a Sex & the City studio (nor, here), or Madison Square Garden for the Dodge Ball champs (come to think of it, nor here either)? Of course not, that argument is silly. The buildings do not turn into anything when each of the thousands of groups meets there. It’s a win-win relationship that benefits the community groups because affordable rental space is not easy to come by in New York, and it benefits the district by bringing in millions of dollars in rent.
But is that the only benefit that churches help to bring to the school community? I think not. Just a few other benefits include churches allowing school students to use their musical instruments free of charge; paying for the installation of an air conditioning unit in the school, and painting several schools. This also does not include the obvious spiritual benefits to those who are hurting (and even to those who are not). Nor does it include the other important benefits that churches bring, including reduction of crime, and the provision of clothes, food, financial and other assistance to those in need.
So why do these government officials, including the Mayor of New York, insist on kicking the churches out in the cold? Because they can.
And briefly, the second example: A Kids for Christ club in Owasso, Oklahoma, meets in a local school before classes begin and has been for over a year. As with all other community groups, they have also been allowed to advertise their meetings through flyers, announcements, signs and bulletin boards. Until recently, that is. Why have they been singled out for exclusion? Because they are religious, and after all, what benefits do religious groups provide? Well, ironically, after booting out the club, school officials asked them to provide care packages– not once but twice– stocked with school supplies, toys, toiletries, etc. for needy kids, which they gladly did. So let me get this straight. You don’t want to treat religious groups the same as all other community groups because they are religious, but then want them to help those in need because they are religious. I get it. Government logic at its best.