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Old 04-27-2006, 01:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
Location: South Florida
Ban on big Churches


* Web Vote | Should churches be bound by standard zoning regulations?

Palm Beach County commissioners will meet today to consider imposing limits on church size -- a move religious-rights organizations warn would violate the right to free religious exercise.

Pastors and congregants are leading a charge against the county, sending letters of protest to commissioners and contacting religious-rights groups to take up the fight on their behalf. The proposals, which were introduced in January, reflect a growing national controversy as communities face off with churches over their ever-expanding congregations in residential neighborhoods and the resulting traffic congestion.

''For us, it's like a First Amendment right, the right to assembly,'' said Chris Clifton, a worship minister at Community of Hope United Methodist Church, a growing church whose plans to build a 500-seat sanctuary on Okeechobee Boulevard could be affected. ``We would be really restricted in what we could do.''

As megachurches multiply across South Florida, congregations have moved into warehouses, movie theaters, high-school auditoriums and giant commercial spaces, including a converted Target store. Some churches have taken root in residential neighborhoods.

In West Kendall, the Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesús (the International Ministry of King Jesus), a congregation with 8,000 members, plans to build a 98,000-square-foot sanctuary on Southwest 136th Street.

In Fort Lauderdale, Calvary Chapel, an 18,000-member congregation, recently launched satellite churches in Boca Raton and Plantation after it could no longer fit worshipers in its enormous sanctuary on West Cypress Creek Road.

And in Palm Beach, Christ Fellowship, a church with 20,000 members and three campuses, plans to move into a converted Target store.


Palm Beach is the first Florida county to propose caps on church size, said Mathew Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, a religious-rights organization that threatened to file suit on churches' behalf if the proposals pass.

Palm Beach County commissioners will discuss today whether they will move forward with the proposals.

If passed, the proposals would limit churches in rural areas to 250 seats and 25,000 square feet, those in suburban areas to 500 seats and 50,000 square feet, and churches in urban neighborhoods areas to 750 seats and 75,000 square feet.

Mounting complaints from residents over traffic and churches in residential neighborhoods led to the proposed zoning changes, said Palm Beach County Zoning Director Jon MacGillis.

''We found that there were some large houses of worship attempting to locate in the middle of residential neighborhoods,'' said Barbara Alterman, director of planning, zoning and building for Palm Beach County. ``What we are trying to do is make a facility like that compatible with residential neighborhoods.''


At least 11 churches could be affected by the new zoning rules, Staver said.

Among them is the Church in the Farms, a Jupiter Baptist church with 700 active members. The church -- which had just 30 members when it was founded 11 years ago -- bought 10 acres along Indiantown Road and plans to build a 45,000-square-foot building with an auditorium for 1,000. The building plans could be rejected when they come up for review under the new proposals, which limit rural churches to 250 seats, said pastor Steve Stewart.

'Our argument as churches and pastors is, `Don't penalize us for being good at what we do,' '' Stewart said.


Palm Beach residents who favor limits on church expansion say they've been alarmed by both megachurches' growth and smaller congregations that pop up unexpectedly in residential areas.

''Nobody wants to object to a church, but you do have to live with it and it needs to fit with a place,'' said Ken Lassiter, first vice president of the Coalition of West Boynton Beach Residents.

Other cities, including Scottsdale, Ariz., have considered similar measures to check church growth, said Jared Leland, spokesman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a national religious-rights organization that has been monitoring the Palm Beach County proposals.

Houses of worship are protected from size restrictions by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal statute passed in 2000 that shields congregations from discrimination in land use.

But with the spread of ''big box'' religion, communities across the country have started cracking down on church growth, Leland said. A 5,000-member church in Montclair, N.J., filed a federal lawsuit charging religious discrimination after New Jersey officials opposed the church's plans to build a 2,500-seat sanctuary, a K-5 school and recreational buildings.

In Broward, a dispute erupted last year over Southwest Ranches closing three roads at its border with Pembroke Pines. Ranches residents held block parties, preventing those attending Abundant Living Ministries from having a direct route. The municipalities eventually arrived at a compromise.

The number of megachurches -- those with membership of 2,000 or more -- has doubled in the past five years to more than 1,200 nationwide, said Scott Thumma, professor of the sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford. With 90 megachurches, Florida ranks third behind Texas and California among states with the highest concentration of such churches, Thumma said.

Palm Beach and Broward counties are home to some of Florida's largest megachurches. Bob Coy, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, had to set up overflow halls in the school gym to house additional worshipers during weekend services, which typically draw 22,000. Coy said he worries the Palm Beach proposals could limit growth at his Boca Raton satellite church, which was launched last October and now draws 1,000.

''I'm very disappointed and find it borderline bizarre that anyone would try to cap anything that looks like growth and would be an asset to the community,'' he said.
What about this? Unconstitutional or another attempt to stop the church from taking over the world? I'll let fellow tilters decide.
"Two men: one thinks he can. One thinks he cannot. They are Both Right."
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Old 04-27-2006, 01:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Location: Manhattan, NY
onus on the OP to try to put in your own point of view before soliciting other's.

try again.
I don't care if you are black, white, purple, green, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, hippie, cop, bum, admin, user, English, Irish, French, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, indian, cowboy, tall, short, fat, skinny, emo, punk, mod, rocker, straight, gay, lesbian, jock, nerd, geek, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist, either you're an asshole or you're not.
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ban, big, churches

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