Too many churches in Stafford, Texas?

ABC News: Worship, But At What Cost?: “Hindus aren’t the only ones drawn to Stafford. In a town with just one movie theater, two grocery stores, and 14 gas stations, there are 51 houses of worship, representing the united nations of religions.”

An interesting report, linked above, concerning the number of churches and other religious shrines in the city of Stafford, Texas explains that there are 51 such institutions in this town of approximately 15,000. A rough, back-of-the-napkin calculation indicates that if 100% of the town’s population went to church, which would be highly unlikely and probably the first such jurisdiction in the world to post 100% support for anything (other than the supposed support that the former Iraqi head of state Saddam Hussein used to boast in various “elections” over the years), that would mean each church would have a congregation of approximately 300. For small- and modest-sized churches, that’s a fair amount of churchgoers. For the larger ones, its woefully small and, perhaps, a sign that, just maybe, Stafford can’t support so many institutions.

However, it’s not simply about congregation sizes. Stafford city council is considering putting a cap on churches so no new ones could build – at least until new people move in and commercial activity is on the rise. The evangelical right is fuming. How dare the local government try to regulate their freedom of religion; it’s simply unconstitutional, they cry.

Alas, it’s a bogus argument. In a town with no property taxes, preferring to opt for development cost charges, franchise and sales taxes to raise revenue, the city can only afford to have so much land tied up by tax-exempt churches. Eventually, they do have a right to say to the “right”, enough is enough. The town needs additional commercial development if it intends to maintain (and grow) both its revenue base and balance its budget, not to mention its bragging rights for having no property taxes.

I do hope the evangelists take the issue to court, if and when the city council passes its “church capping” bylaw. That way, city of Stafford can defend its own legal rights to provide much needed local infrastructure and government services to its citizens.

Ultimately though, my personal belief is to begin forcing churches to pay property taxes, perhaps at a reduced rate for non-profit societies and organizations. They’re flush with cash, and while they do great work in the towns in which they operate, the very fact that many of the largest churches have healthy surpluses of cash in their bank accounts and on their annual budgets, is a strong indication they can afford to pay their way. At one time, the Roman Catholic Church was a significant shareholder in Safeway, the famous North American grocery store owner/operator. While I do understand that investing in healthy blue-chip, dividend-paying corporations is a good way to raise revenue for the much-needed services they provide, there comes a point that when the large, worldwide churches begin acting like multinational venture capitalists, property taxes must be paid.

So, bottom line: everybody should pay property taxes; however, city councils should put in place (and most already have) a mechanism to apply for an annual exemption from paying property taxes so that those most helped by the extra cash in their bank accounts actually get it – and those that can afford it (like the Catholic and Anglican churches) pay their share. Afterall, they still don’t have to pay income taxes.


3 thoughts on “Too many churches in Stafford, Texas?

  1. Yes, I can see your point regarding property taxes. There are some churches flush with money, but many churches are just managing to pay their expenses. They would probably have a lot more money if they would quit investing in the community–i.e. if they would stop trying to feed the poor, stop providing counselling services to those without money, stop sending money to overseas missions, etc.
    I don’t believe that average Joe public has any idea of how much the “church” contrubutes to the community at large. I know of communities in the North where their only source of medical care is from a hospital staffed by doctors and nurses (Christian)who choose to donate a year or two of their lives to the service of those otherwise forgotten people.

  2. someone wealthy needs to take Stafford,Texas to the courts for not allowing churches!. The rights of people are against the law in Stafford,Texas!

    Stafford,Texas may not have property taxes but the school taxes are extremely high, plus there are county you pay as much or more than property taxes anyways.

    The houses in Stafford,Texas have tiny yards with no trees. The city cuts old trees down and never replants them.

  3. I would rather have churches than these supposed gentlemen’s clubs and bars, tattoos, etc. I would rather my hometown be more respectable than a junkie town and sorry if I misspelled some words.

    (Editor’s Note: This comment was edited for spelling and grammar.)

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