Thursday, September 13, 2012

Toronto Schools Hit Churches With Up to 400% Rental Increases, Leave Most Other Group Rates in Place

Is Christianity in America under attack?
This is a question that many faith-based advocates have been asking over the past few years, particularly in the wake of the federal government‘s controversial contraceptive mandate and atheists’ ongoing attacks on religious symbols.
One prominent piece of anecdotal evidence unfolded when churches in New York City found themselves in an epic battle with the government over renting space in public schools last year. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city officials fought to ban the houses of worship from using the public space, churches won an injunction against the city earlier this summer. Now, there’s a new battle up north, where faith leaders in Toronto, Canada, are facing similar constraints.
Photo Credit: AP
Late last month, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) delivered a stunning blow to churches when it announced that, starting September 1 — just 48 hours after learning about the change – that faith-based groups would no longer be able to take advantage of the reduced rental rates that are available to other charitable organizations, World Magazine reports.
The shocking move led to mass rental increases that were double — even tripple — what the churches were paying previously. In addition to having virtually no time to come up with the funds to meet the massive monthly rental gap, houses of worship were informed that they will face another 44 percent increase on January 1, 2013 (all renters will be charged this rate).
These actions, considering their swiftness and targeted nature, are being viewed by many as discriminatory and dangerous to churches’ survival. With churches sometimes lacking the ability and resources to bring in additional funds, many may face closure without an accessible location to meet in.

According to school district spokespersons, the decision to raise rents was made in February to help close a massive budget gap ($110 million). Apparently, opening the schools up to outside groups has led to a $11 million deficit — a hole that officials are hoping to close, at least partially, by bringing in more income from faith leaders.
CTV has more about the process through which the district is now classifying churches:
Fees are based on a three-tier rate system. Two levels of subsidized pricing exist for non-profit groups that fit certain criteria.
According to the TDSB, groups such as Scouts Canada, Girl Guides, the YMCA and registered charitable organizations receive subsidized pricing.
A third category, which went in effect this month, lists “all faith based organizations operating educational programs or conducting religious services,” as non-subsidized groups. This category also includes permit users that do not qualify for any of the other permit user categories on the list.
Any permit holders in the “registered non-profit” category received a letter as late as Aug. 29, informing them of the changes to the fees. These groups were suddenly switched and renamed to fall under the “non-subsidized” category.


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