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Clergy fight to restore water exemptions for churches

Posted by Admin On March - 15 - 2012

Push back meeting set for today

 

By Chinta Strausberg

 

A number of clergy will be meeting 5 p.m. today, Thursday, March 15, 2012, at the Rise and Sun Baptist Church, 820 N. Central, to oppose Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s elimination of water fee exemptions for churches and to tell aldermen to restore the water exemption policy.

Pastor Michael Eaddy, administrative assistant of the First Jurisdiction Illinois International, is outraged over the lifting of the water exemption. He is helping to circulate petitions to oppose the exemption. The ministers, known as the Coalition for Good Works, said churches, not-for-profits, schools and hospitals will be affected.

Calling the water plan unfair, Eaddy said, “As faith base leaders, we are providing so many services—services we don’t charge people who are in need. We provide services that no one else provides. This exemption will create a hardship on the church and one we do not need especially in these economical hard times.”

Agreeing with Eaddy was Rev. Dr. Princella B. Lee, founder/pastor of the Victory Cathedral Faith Church, 10441 S. Racine, Chicago. “I am thoroughly against Rahm Emanuel’s wanting the churches to pay water bills. Most of the churches are trying to survive just to keep their doors open and they don’t need nothing else tacked on to what they are trying to do. I am completely against it.

“Our city is the hungriest city in the world. You’re taxed for everything,” said Lee. “After awhile, they’ll tax us for breathing.  I feel the mayor is out of order and it’s wrong for us to be taxed for water. It is not right for us to pay for water. The gas bills are horrendous. Some churches can’t have service in their main auditorium in the wintertime because the gas bills are so high.  Some churches can have service once a week because the gas bills are so high and to tack on a water and light bill” is not fair, she said.

With pastors having to pay a mortgage and other bills, Rev. Lee said, “At some point, the city ought to recognize that the church is doing the same thing that the police are trying to do…make the city better. If you close the churches down, then you’re tying our hands and you won’t have us to be able to help fight the crime because that is the work of the church to try to make our city better and that is what most of the churches are trying to do. Rahm Emanuel ought to take that under consideration,” Lee said.

The coalition will first meets with the aldermen then take it to the next step. There are 89 churches in Eaddy’s jurisdiction but ministers and some elected officials across the city are uniting over this issue.

Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th)  said, “The non-for-profits are really working to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in society.  “A lot of times, they are the difference between whether or not our constituents receive the services because government, facing a deficit as it is, cannot always give the assistance that is needed.” Collins asked, “Why put that burden on non-for-profits and churches?

Referring to churches and non-for-profits, Collins added, “They render a service to a constituency base where many times the government cannot reach,” said Collins who fears this might lead to closures of some churches and non-for-profits. “I leave a large population in need with no resources. Many times the churches and the non-for-profits have been there when government policies have not been there; so why put such a great tear in the safety net”?

Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church and co-Chair of the Leaders Network, is also against lifting the exemption on water for churches. “I am very disappointed about that but I am not surprised because when the mayor ran he promised that was one of the things he would do.

“I am glad that the ministers are coming together to push back because if you don’t push back you’re basically saying it’s OK. I do not think this is a concession that not-for-profits should make. These churches were given tax exemption for water for a reason because of the good works they have rendered,” said Acree. “So, all of a sudden not-for-profits, hospitals, churches and schools are not doing good works anymore? I don’t think so.

“If the crime rate is tough now, can you imagine where it would be if the churches were not in existence,” said Acree. “Taxing these inner city churches can actually put some of these churches out of business and we can’t afford that.”

Bishop John Rodgers, Sr., pastor of the New Life in Christ Missionary Non-Denominational Training Center Church, said he received his first water bill of $2.02. “This was the first one. We don’t use much water, but it is still a hurt and a take away from the church necessities. It’s the water bill now. The next thing they will want us to pay property tax. We’re standing up and coming against Mayor Emanuel and we are asking him to have mercy and leniency” on the churches.

“Every since I’ve been in Chicago, the churches never had to pay a water bill. The city is not that uptight that they have to start charging the churches water bills. Where’s the mercy, Mr. Mayor. Delete the water bills. It’s not going to pull you out of debt. The churches need everything they’ve got so they can continue to give to the people,” Rodgers said.

Rev. Marvin G. Hunter, pastor of the Grace Memorial M.B.C. Church, said, “I think this action by the city of Chicago is a direct attack on the religious community and especially the African American church and has angered a large number of black voters within the religious community and at a time when our aldermen who are running for committeemen and our President is up for re-election. This is not good for the Democratic Party, and I wonder does the leadership of City Hall really care,” said Hunter.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

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