Houses of Worship:
Just Another Tax Liability
To a city seeking more tax dollars, a church is a liability. Almost any other use generates more revenue than a house of worship. Churches in desirable areas can thus find themselves in the cross-hairs of local governments and developers. In addition to the condemnation action filed against the church in South Bend, at least seven other houses of worship have been condemned or threatened with condemnation in the past five years.
Religious institutions that operate in urban areas are particularly vulnerable. The Southwestern Illinois Development Authority condemned land purchased by a mosque to build its permanent home, in order to transfer the property to a developer putting up apartment buildings. Similarly, the North Hempstead Community Development Agency condemned land purchased by St. Luke’s Pentecostal Church. St. Luke’s wanted a permanent home for its congregation; the agency wanted private retail. In Lexington, Kentucky, a group called the God’s Center lost ownership of a defunct movie theater it wanted to turn into an African-American cultural center, in favor of a rival private organization that wanted to open its own cultural center there. Two churches in Atlantic City were razed after they sold to MGM Grand under threat of condemnation. MGM Grand decided not to build there. Hillsboro, Oregon, is condemning a Christian Science Reading Room for a commercial/residential project. Boynton Beach, Florida, may take the Jesus House of Worship for private retail. And if New Rochelle leaders had succeeded in their attempts to remove a neighborhood for an IKEA, two churches would have been among those to go.
Sources: All of these situations are described in this report under their respective cities.