Friday, April 27, 2007

Does Canadian Zoning Decision Improperly Impose Definition of A Church?

A decision by Vancouver, British Columbia's Planning Department has raised an interesting church-state issue, according to Canadian Christianity yesterday. The city says that the Tenth Avenue Christian Missionary Alliance church needs a social services permit to operate a drop-in lunch program and two programs that allow homeless to sleep overnight in the church building. A conditional permit was granted in 2005. It requires the church to keep records, report and patrol the surrounding neighborhood. The church has been operating under that permit, but now an activist, Bill Chu, is raising questions about the need for the permit. He argues that the city has essentially defined a "church" by determining that the social service activities here go beyond the normally expected uses of a church. He says that this definition is inconsistent with the fundamental nature of Christianity. Chu has called together Christian, Jewish and Sikh religious leaders in Vancouver to urge them to join in protesting the city's ruling.