City zoning officials to churches: “Show me the money!”


In the 1996 hit movie Jerry Mcguire, Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s character, Rod Tidwell, demanded that Jerry Mcguire, his sports agent played by Tom Cruise, shout the infamous phrase, “Show me the money!”  

This is what city zoning officials across America are shouting to churches who come before them seeking permission to be located within the city.  “You want to be located in our town?  Then show me the money!  Show me the revenue stream.  Show me the tax base that will be generated.  Show me the development that will ensue.  In short, show me the money!”

In Yuma, Arizona, city officials denied Centro Familiar Cristiano a permit to operate a church in a building it had purchased on Main Street.  The reason for the denial?  According to the city, a downtown church was inconsistent with the economic development the city was trying to obtain in that area. 

Yuma is not alone.  Churches across America have been harassed by city officials for no other reason than city officials do not see the economic value of having a church located within the town. 

My, how times have changed.  In years gone by, churches were valued members of society.  Cities recognized the valuable role that churches played in protecting and developing public morality.  But in today’s world where big brother government is trying to take over the role of the church, city zoning officials are seeing churches as impediments to growth rather than a foundation for growth.   

Fortunately for churches, all is not lost.  Just like a broken clock is right twice a day, Congress got it right in 2000 when it passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act.  This law protects churches from overzealous city officials seeking to thwart church growth in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  In addition, the House of Representatives just passed HB 2596 that will prohibit cities from prohibiting churches from locating in certain neighborhoods.

It should not be all about the money.  City officials would learn an important lesson in 1 Timnothy 6:20 – that the love of money is the root of all evil.

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