Samsung Presbyterian Church is paying a monthly ‘fee’ of $20,000 to the City of La Habra, California to offset the loss of tax revenue and to receive city permission to build on their property (see article: July 19, 2007, pg. 4).

The church bought 10 acres of land along Beach blvd. in La Habra which is a major commercial area for the city. In order to receive cooperation from the city for their expansion project, the church entered into an agreement to pay a fee of $20,000 per month to offset the potential loss of tax revenue for the city.

A better resolution would have been for the church to agree to use the $20,000/Mo. for outreaches to the poorer areas in the city. This would be helpful to the city and more in keeping with the mission of a Christian church. La Habra is suffering from gangs and problems associated with poverty near the old downtown area of the city where recent immigrants are living.

Many cities in America are making it increasingly difficult for churches to purchase property and build buildings. The major reason for the increasing battles going on between religious organizations and cities center around the potential loss of tax revenue.

If a business buys land in a city and builds a shop then the city will receive a share of the tax revenue that the business generates. Churches on the other hand do not generally collect sales taxes (except maybe from bookstore sales) nor do they pay property taxes.

There are several instances in the last few years where cities have even resorted to using eminent domain in order to confiscate church properties for commercial purposes. One famous case involved Cottonwood Christian Center in Los Alamitos California. The City tried to take the church’s land and give it to Costco for a new store. After considerable litigation, the church agreed to build on another property in the same area.

Commentary: This is a prime example of the cultural shift that is taking place in America vis-a-vis the importance & value of churches in a community. In former generations, churches were held in high regard as institutions which made positive contributions to a city. Now local politicians, in this increasingly secular age, no longer recognize their value, but only see churches as tax-base liabilities.

It is a growing trend, in new ‘planned’ communities, that land is designated for everything except churches (although there are usually 3 or 4 token sites). This is particularly true in South OC (Orange County, So.Calif) where I live. The vast majority of churches in this area are meeting in rented facilities, usually in schools or in industrial warehouses.              

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