God, it seems — and those who believe in Him — require too much space. That is the conclusion of at least one county council, which has opted to ban construction of new churches and Christian schools from the rural landscape.
“God simply cannot be permitted to muck up the pristine landscape of rural King County, in Washington state,” the King County council as much as said last month. Led by County Executive Ron Sims, the council voted to clamp down and restrict God to facilities of less than 20,000 square feet in rural King County. That Sunday traffic congestion must be a real killer!
In closing up an exemption originally provided to churches in the growth management act, county bureaucrats say they are heading off future traffic congestion at the pass. They seem convinced that large churches build out in the boondocks — and wait for subdivisions to spring up around them.
“It is not as though Washington is overrun with churches,” said Maury Clark, of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. “This is the least churched state in the United States.” County officials also dislike the idea that churches and subdivisions require roads and sewers. One wonders what they think the mountains of property tax money they collect each year are for?
Church leaders have tried for six months to negotiate larger square-footage restrictions with the county. This may have been a costly error. While many things can be negotiated by people of differing views but good faith — foundational liberties, including property rights and free assembly — can’t. They are not ours — or our church leaders’ — to give away. They were won at great cost and belong to us and our posterity. Even considering appeasement only emboldens the tyrannical and dictatorial nature of some bureaucrats and county officials.
Did I mention that there are exceptions to the size restrictions? Schools — provided they are government run schools — are fine: No restrictions. And, of course, since government administers the planning process, other exceptions for government this and that are, shall we say, a foregone conclusion. After all, first things first: Self, family, country — and if there’s any space left over — God. Didn’t Jesus himself say, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s”? But what happens when Caesar thinks it all belongs to him?
Our nation is just now beginning a debate about the role that people of faith and houses of worship should play in delivering social services to the needy and lifting people from lives of poverty and hopelessness. This dialogue is likely to go on for some time — except, apparently, in King County, Wash. There, those on the council to whom God reports have already decided: Religious facilities large enough to effectively reach out and help the physically and spiritually broken are not to be permitted. Nor are religious schools or other large facilities. Little churches with tiny budgets that can’t afford to reach out beyond their own four walls are OK. We just don’t want any Muslims, Jews or Christians building schools, playing basketball in gymnasiums with our kids or rehabilitating the drug-addicted and homeless. Sorry, God: An appeal is out of the question. County Executive Sims, and Representatives Fimia, Sullivan, Miller, Pelz, Nickels and Gossett have already decided.
From time to time each of us has encountered people who think they are God: a boss, a coworker, and not infrequently, a politician. I’ve just never before encountered individuals who believe they are above God in the Grand Scheme of Things. It must be, well, an interesting perspective. (In fact, Jesus related the fate of the last pretender to God’s throne in Luke 10:18.)
The good news is there are people of principle on the King County council who believe those of us who are trying to be good citizens and reach out to help the needy on our own nickel should have the same private property, educational and free-assembly rights that government claims for itself. Representatives Pullen, Vance, McKenna, Hague, von Reichbauer and perhaps Irons actually seem to believe that government may not have all the answers, that people of all faiths may have something positive to contribute to their neighbors in King County. Remarkably, these council members do not seem to be threatened by people of faith banding together to help their fellow man in the ways that God leads them. They deserve the support of people of all faiths for their stand against these restrictions. In fact, maybe that’s what King and other counties across the nation really need: more people willing to serve, and less people pretending to be God.
Note: A group of pastors led by Joe Fuiten will be meeting with King County Executive Ron Sims this Friday to request reconsideration. Their e-mail addresses are linked above, if you’d like to offer encouragement or weigh in on the debate.