Among the changes being reviewed:
*A plan to subject all "non-worship" space owned by religious groups to property taxes. This "non-worship" space would include offices, kitchens, nurseries, fellowship halls, parking lots, restrooms, etc. Not even the sanctuary would all be exempt: only the area "where the congregation sits/stands/gathers for actual worship."
*A new definition of "places of worship" to eliminate current provisions allowing church properties to be used for day care centers or soup kitchens.
*New limits for start-up churches, who would be allowed to rent only 3,000 square feet of industrial space for a maximum of three years before being required to buy property.
*A limit allowing only one "place of worship" for every 10,000 residents.
*A stratospheric rise in fees for things like zoning and variance issues. One church reportedly had to pay Brampton $400,000 for the paperwork required to build a new sanctuary.
*Ban religious meetings in homes if they involve more than 20 people, children included.
No Apologies reports that churches and other religious organizations are assembling a response to the proposals outlined in a city study, and a city council vote is scheduled later in January.A spokeswoman for the city told WND that the study has been launched into a "development charge bylaw," but it isn't yet completed, and doesn't even have a schedule for completion. "No recommendations have been made," she said.Al Siebring, the editor for the website, wrote in a commentary when he first heard of the plan, he thought it had to be an urban legend.But he said someone "with a bit of sympathy for the churches" leaked a copy of the still-unreleased plan that includes parts "that read like they could have been written in Stalinist Russia.""There are some really egregious rights violations potentially going on here, " he said, listing freedom of association, freedom of conscience, and "that little thing" called freedom of religion."For someone who grew up reading authors like [Voice of the Martyrs founder] Richard Wurmbrand and [Open Doors founder] Brother Andrew, the parallels to the old Soviet Union and its satellites are striking. The notion of a 'knock on the door' in the middle of a prayer meeting is so counter to everything we have understood to be fundamental to the notion of 'freedom of religion' as to be almost unthinkable," he wrote.The one good thing about the plan, he said, is that the application of new taxes, fees and limits would be on all "religious" facilities, including temples, mosques, ashrams and chapels."Which is why a coalition of 'faith groups' has been formed … to fight this," he said.Pastor Kevin Begley is the head of the new Brampton Faith Coalition, and indicated the details truly are horrific. He cited the new "plans" for new churches.
"If you want to use a rec centre or a school, you can't get that every week because it's not available," Begley told the website. "(But) if you rent a space in an industrial unit, the draft document recommends that it must be under 3,000 square feet, and you're only allowed in that area for three years. Well, 3,000 square feet - and that includes your offices, your sanctuary, your lobby, your children's or youth (ministries), whatever you want to do - you have 3,000 square feet which is ... about half the size of a gymnasium. And you're only allowed there for three years. After three years, you must have the money in the bank to go out and purchase (your own land and building). That's just not realistic. Land in our city right now is running about a million dollars an acre."