Asking Churches To Pay For Fire Protection Isn’t a Burden on Their Religious Rights

Churches many not have to pay into taxes for the country, but they certainly use resources available to the city and state, paid by taxpayers. 

If a church was the victim of fire damage, the fire department in the area would come to subdue the fire and assess the damage, and causes the fire. 

The same process would happen if an attempted burglary or vandalism occurred on church property with local law enforcement. How can the city pay for that protection when churches remain tax-exempt? Easy. A set fee is charged all non-profits to subsidize the costs of social services. 

In the country, there are places where churches do not have to pay into these fees, so long as they are examined like everyone else, there won’t be any legal problem by asking for them to cover the costs as contributing to the community.

City officials in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, have suggested an “annual fire assessment of 5 cents per square foot” for every non-profit organization.

Some churches are opposed due to their perception that it would hurt their ability to covert other:

”The First Baptist Church campus consists of the church sanctuary, its Christian Life Center, a fellowship hall, administrative building and three educational buildings, all of which total 122,000 square feet. At 5 cents per square foot, the church would be charged an annual fire fee of $6,100. That amount would pay for a lot of community missions. City officials say the fire fee is not a tax and can be charged to the 37 tax-exempt churches in Fort Walton Beach…” [Rev. Howard] Gates said..

A minister even confessed she used the fire department in the past but didn’t want to pay a fee: Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Walton Beach on Beal Parkway, Rev. Sharon Schuler said she appreciates the fire department and understands that it needs revenue. 

“I have had to call on them for help before, and I appreciate their efficiency,” Schuler said. “But it’s too bad (city officials) can’t look at what we do to help the community and realize we do our fair share.” 

This can be a used argument for the case of favoring the fee. Churches could be paying into communities than other charities. Cities should put a rank on on-profits by the non-tangible items they provide. Everyone ultimately needs to be fairly charged for the fee. 

In the meantime, Fort Walton Beach hasn’t come up with a decision yet, but is assessing information about it. If these non-profit groups are using city services, wouldn’t it be right they paid into them too? 

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