By Doug Newman
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Originally published here on June 2, 1997.
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Thank you very much for coming out this evening. Thank you also to the Aurora City Council for making it so easy for common citizens to voice their grievances. Let us also be thankful that we in America have a constitutional GUARANTEE of the right to petition for redress of grievances.
My name is Douglas Newman. I have lived in Aurora for two and one-half years. I am here this evening on behalf of the Aurora Libertarians, as well as on behalf of my Christian brothers and sisters in Aurora.
I am here to express the indignation of both Christians and lovers of liberty (which includes the religious liberty of ALL people) at the proposal by some members of the council to no longer issue permits to storefront churches in certain parts of Aurora. This proposal was the subject of a front page story in The Denver Post on May 16.
How dare they intrude so recklessly upon our religious freedoms, which are GUARANTEED by the “FREE EXERCISE” clause of the First Amendment? How dare they intrude so recklessly upon the rights of landlords to rent to whomever they choose, GUARANTEED by the Fifth Amendment and that pesky old Ninth Amendment?
At least they are honest about their reason for wanting to limit storefront churches: Churches don’t generate sales tax revenue. For-profit enterprises DO generate this revenue. And people accuse corporations of being greedy! This proposal will do nothing less than steal crumbs from the mouths of the poor and the homeless.
Consider what Rob Kimble, an elder at the Divine Love Christian Center at the corner of Dayton and Colfax told The Denver Post: “We are a spiritual place and God does work here. We’re at the very corner where people using drugs and alcohol come off the streets. The church is winning souls!”
Divine Love and numerous other churches in North Aurora embody the spirit of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Contrast this with the words of Carol Singer of the planning commission: “There is enough building inventory that the churches could easily find another space. It doesn’t have to be a storefront.” This sounds a lot like Marie Antoinette. When the people of France had no bread, she just said, “Let them eat cake.”
It was Ms. Caldwell who in 1991 helped lead a fight to stop people from turning residential homes into small churches. Many of these congregations cannot afford traditional buildings. They simply do not have the financial resources. Where may these folks wind up if churches are verboten from renting storefronts in these neighborhoods?
The Divine Love Christian Center has already faced considerable harassment from the City of Aurora because it did not have — get this — enough parking places. Other churches have been pestered by the city for various and sundry building code violations. Complying with these regulations costs money which these churches in many cases DO NOT HAVE.
Don’t get me wrong: the City of Aurora will let you have a church as long as it is architecturally sophisticated enough. This is like saying that you can have a retail store, as long as it resembles Neiman Marcus. Or you can have a hotel, as long as it resembles a Hilton. Or you can have a baseball field as long as it represents Coors Field.
I am reminded of Luke 11:46, when Jesus said to the Pharisees: “And you experts in the law, woe to you because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”
Ms. Caldwell, Ms. Singer and their ilk say that additional sales tax revenue is essential for revitalizing Aurora. How typical of the modern day Pharisees who hold public office in America. They love to congratulate themselves on how much they are doing to help us, even after the failure of over 30 years and trillions of dollars of government programs aimed at urban renewal.
If such programs could heal the ills that afflict America’s cities: we would by now have ended poverty, America’s children would be the best educated in the world, crime and drug use would be almost nonexistent, and the corner of Colfax and Dayton would resemble a street corner in the Denver Tech Center. Yet none of these things are so, and the more government does in any of these areas, the worse things get.
This evening, we may not be able to repeal decades of counterproductive government programs. However, we can stand fast for the most positive institutions at work in North Aurora: the storefront churches. My brothers and sisters in Christ in these churches are working relentlessly and successfully to reach so many of the forgotten members of our society. The spiritual revitalization they offer by touching hearts and turning around lives is far more powerful than secular government could ever be.
Ms. Caldwell says she will receive much criticism for making this proposal. Well, let us not disappoint her. Let us resist with every fiber of our being this campaign against storefront churches. And let us drive a stake through the heart of this proposal to no longer grant permits to storefront churches.
On behalf of the Aurora Libertarians, and on behalf of the Christian community of Aurora, thank you and God bless you.
In the end, the proposal failed. Today, the sprawling city of Aurora has dozens of storefront churches. I don’t want any credit here, as all the credit and glory must go to God.