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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

TOWN BANS NEW CHURCHES: Reidsville City Council forbids new congregations in downtown area

Earlier tonight on WGSR, Richard Moore appeared with Charles Roark and was (among other things) talking about this week's meeting of the Reidsville City Council. And Richard reported on something that I couldn't believe that I was hearing, so I e-mailed Richard and he confirmed it...

Reidsville City Council has voted to ban new churches from the downtown area.

Here is what Richard told me...

"Current churches can continue to operate, but no new churches will be allowed in the Central Business District. It was put into law today with a 5-2 vote. I think John Gentry and George Rucker voted against it."
Richard also tells me that the Reidsville City Council did not debate whether or not this measure to ban churches was constitutional, but the council did discuss the constitutionality of banning pit bulls.

Only in Reidsville.

Let's review the First Amendment of the United States Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
It's a pretty sad thing but one way or another, it's occurred to me that as of today every right delineated by the First Amendment has come under attack or otherwise curtailment by public officials in Rockingham County in the past several months. We've had elected officials describe WGSR as "bad for the community" (Ron Price on the school board), sue people for organizing petition drives (Ron Price, again), eliminate free speech in a public hearing (Reidsville City Council's silencing Richard Moore in April). And now with this act, Reidsville City Council is prohibiting both the exercise of religion and the right to peacably assemble.

It could also be noted that beyond simple prohibition, that the City of Reidsville is now acting as a regulatory agency over religious activity.

There may be more to report about this later. I'll post it when it comes across the desk this way. In the meantime, as crazy as it sounds: Reidsville, North Carolina is one town in America that has banned new churches from appearing in its downtown area.

Parse that as you will.


Anonymous said...

Several cities have done this in the past with the reasoning that churches do not have to pay property taxes so more churches means less money for the city. Whether or not this is the council's reason is unknown though. However, maybe they want to preserve the existing junk, I mean "antique" stores that line the downtown "business" district.

Chris Knight said...

"Several cities have done this in the past with the reasoning that churches do not have to pay property taxes so more churches means less money for the city."


The same reasoning for the Kelo decision, it should be noted. Although I am at a loss to explain how this city council has been so slow to start abusing that, as a lot of other governments have been doing across the country.

But yeah, as you suggest, I suspect it's a matter of money, whether or not they'll actually admit to it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is about property taxes. The buildings are generally leased to the churches. The property owner still has to pay the taxes - he's not exempt because a church leases the building.

Anonymous said...

i live in Summerfield-Rock County, but frequent Reidsville b/c of the Library. I have lived in the area for 19 years and think the downtown looks better than it has in years-churches included. If you ask me, Reidsville should put a moratorium on all new churches and eateries within the city limits. They are everywhere; we have enough choices with regard to food and food for the soul. That's all people do in Reidsville, dine out and go to church then they take that ride in the limo...and even after that we still have a traditionally white funeral home and a traditionally black funeral. we don't even bury our dead together. Yeah, that's what we need in Reidsville, NC more churches because the ones already in existence have made such a big difference over the years. Reidsville needs to work on their schools and creating opportunities for their youth. In case you haven't noticed-the funeral homes are getting new limos. This town has peaked and is on the dying side of things unless something dramatic occurs.