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Letter: Downers Grove churches unite against stormwater fee

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 9:49 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

We send you best wishes from these communities of faith of Downers Grove.

We are writing to you and to your fine readers to inform you all of a challenge that is facing the churches of Downers Grove. We are asking for understanding and support of both a principle and a reality.

The principle is that of the Constitutional guaranteed “freedom from interference and control by the government over churches.” It is enshrined in the Bill of Rights; and, our first and greatest jurist, John Marshall, made it even clearer when he said “the power to tax is the power to destroy.”

Our mayor and council have imposed a thinly veiled tax (“fee”) on churches and other nonprofits to help fund a long delayed water retention program. This program was tabled for years by previous town leaders. It is built and designed to add more tax income each year and thus avoid the state mandated property tax limits. Many other citizens have already spoken out against this.

The mayor has publicly said that we should have been there before it was done. None of our church leaders ever thought that the village would put the burden of their responsibilities on the backs of the churches and violate such basic Constitutional principles.

The reality we are faced with is that while all our outreach programs have increased over the recent years (especially when the mayor and council eliminated the Social Outreach of the Village, like Meals on Wheels and senior transportation services, etc.), our income because of the economic times has not increased in line with these expenses.  

We have stretched every dollar to help the poor, the homeless and the needy. The village refuses to see what all the communities of faith have done for the whole village. It matters not what faith a person has or even if that person has no faith, they are helped and assisted by our communities of faith. How does it reflect on our communities values in Downers Grove when we place our money shortfall on the backs of the poor and needy?

The mayor and the council see the churches as properties and feel free to tax those properties at will. Our churches are people, not only cement and grass. Our members (the overwhelming majority from Downers Grove) already pay the tax on their property; and, now are forced to pay again.  

We are asking for support of the great principles that are the foundation of our country. We are asking for the freedom to continue to minister to the most needy in our village. We churches have volunteered to make donations to help the village with the water problem. The mayor and council have refused this good will offer.

We ask that the mayor and council repeal this tax on churches and find another way to fund their water retention plan.

We thank you for both your interest and support. We send you and your fine readers the very best wishes for this New Year.

Respectfully,

Rev. William Conway, Pastor, Divine Savior Church

Rev. Duk K. Kwon, Pastor, Faith United Methodist Church of Downers Grove

Pastor Scott Oberle, Senior Minister, First Congregational United Church of Christ

Rev. Dan Martinson, Lead Pastor, Hobson Road Community Church

Rev. John Prohl, Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Chris James, Associate Pastor, Rev. R. Scott Lohman, Assistant Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church

Rev. John Phan, Pastor, St. Joseph Church

Rev. Lesley Weir, St. Luke Presbyterian Church

Rev. Ernest Norbeck, Pastor, Rev. William Cullen, Senior Priest in Residence, St. Mary of Gostyn Church

Rev. Kirk Moore, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ

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