Monday, May 7, 2012

West Lafayette Selects An Official Religion?

Faith (Baptist) Ministries, through it's 11 subsidiary LLC and 501c3 corporations, is asking the City of West Lafayette for the issuance and sale of $7,000,000 (project total: $11,460.00) in Economic Development Revenue Bonds to support the planned Faith West project on Northwestern Ave.

The application of the Faith West project for the Economic Development Revenue Bonds shows Faith Ministries concern that it will appear that city government is supporting religious programs. So there is a list of which programs will or will not be funded by the EDRB bonds.

I would argue that such distinctions are impractical and so less than candid.

Both from the "Understanding of the Proposed Ministry Activities of Faith West" material supplied to city council, and from the Faith West website used in support of the ministry's internal fund raising, it is clear that this is a religious project.

Our funding support goal is to assist in purchasing land, site development, 
and construction of the Purdue Bible Fellowship and biblical counseling facility.

This, therefore, is a substantially different situation from the Westminster Village EDRB bonds previously issued by the city.  While initially developed and constructed by Presbyterian Housing Program, Inc., the ownership of Westminster Village was transferred to a not-for-profit corporation with ownership vested in a local volunteer Board of Directors in 1981.

There was no Presbyterian seminary. No Presbyterian missionaries. No Presbyterian campus ministry. No Presbyterian counseling center. No Presbyterian covenanted dormitory. (Indeed, Westminster is home to a few unconventional living arrangements.)

A child care facility and a fitness center are attractive features offered by the Faith West project. But they are not the heart of the project. We are financing a church, not a "Y".

It will not be possible to parse this project once it is underway.  Divide the parking lot? Partition the dumpster? Identify which 6 of the 18 proposed employees will be controlled by the church administration? (The church will be exempt from the expanded anti-discrimination measure we recently passed.) Segregate the HVAC units?

As an Episcopal priest, I hope that Faith Church enjoys a long and successful ministry at their new location in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But as a city councilman, I don't see why the city should lend its faith and credit to it.

We could. We don't have to. We shouldn't.

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