Deadbeat Churches

A recent news story from Baltimore highlights a common problem with too many religious people: a belief that somehow the rest of us owe them something. 

Baltimore Gas and Electric recently turned the lights off at the Friendship Baptist Church for a past due power bill of over $30,000. The church’s finances had apparently taken a hit during the pandemic and had never fully recovered causing them to fall behind in their bills. Who knows what else they haven’t been paying, but leadership at the church believes they’re owed special treatment by the power company at the very least. 

“You’re chopping God’s worshiping services off. That’s what you’re doing,” said Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr, according to WMAR-TV. “You just turned the lights off in God’s house. Imagine that.”

And for what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like BGE didn’t try to help. 

In a written statement, the utility says, “BGE works with all customers, including Friendship Baptist Church to help them access various payment options and energy assistance resources.”

I’m sure it hurts to see your organization and community suffer. I won’t try to take that away from the folks at Friendship Baptist Church, but in a society that already extends so many financial benefits to religious organizations, it’s maddening to hear a pastor complain about not getting yet another accommodation. 

To further that point, here’s my short (and rapidly thrown together) list of ways we as a society already collectively pay for religious organizations to operate here in the US:

    • Property tax exemption – churches don’t chip in for road maintenance, policing, or anything else local property taxes help pay for
    • Tax benefits for pastors, like tax free housing allowances 
    • Tax free income – churches don’t have to pay taxes on tithing revenue
    • If you know of others please comment and I’ll add them to the list. 

But let’s also have your power company let you get away with not paying your $30,000 power bill! So their neighhors already pay for their police and fire protection, their roads and sidewalks, their streetlights, etc. Now let’s add their utilities to that list too.

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