Freedom and Faith

Sometimes supporting freedoms means coming down on the unpopular side of public opinion.

Case in point, the Jehovah's Witness wants to build a church in Merrimack, NH in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  I don't know about you but I'm no fan of having them knocking on my door attempting to preach me into changing my faith.  Faith isn't something offered on a door by door basis.

About a year ago now they purchased a plot of land in Merrimack and went to the town seeking the approvals and permits needed to build their church.  The town at the time denied their request listing concerns about traffic in the neighborhood and pointing out it was zoned residential.  After battling it out the town zoning board finally backed down this week.

The Telegraph covered the reconsideration HERE.

ZBA members initially voted last fall to reject the congregation’s proposal to build a Kingdom Hall on the former farmland at 63 Wire Road, citing traffic and safety, among other concerns. But congregation leaders kept the matter alive, suing both the board and the town for religious discrimination, among other charges.


More than a dozen area residents spoke out Wednesday against the project, warning of the same traffic and safety issues they spoke of a year earlier. “The land in question is zoned residential. A church, simply put, is not a residential use,” said Lisa Underhill, an area resident.

“I’m baffled. If you folks determined this was not in the public’s interest last time, with no additional facts, … how you can conclude anything different?” asked Tom Boland, a resident of nearby Mallard Point Road.

But the board members disagreed, voting 5-3 to approve the matter rather than extending the lawsuit and subjecting the town to continued legal fees, which could reach $1 million, according to the town’s attorney, Gary Lane of Concord.

Valid concerns, I agree.  A residential neighborhood is not a location to put things other then homes.

However, Merrimack shot itself in the foot by already approving other things to be built in the same area.  Just one street away is located another Church.  And then you have to consider Merrimack put it's transfer station on a road only accessible from the main road by either Wire Rd or Bedford road.  Hard to argue that traffic is ok for the transfer station located much deeper into that same residentially zoned area carrying with it not only car traffic but also tractor trailer traffic and then arguing back that traffic for a church in the same area isn't ok.

Once you've eliminated the only valid concerns there is no justifiable reason to stop this religious group from being able to build what they want on land they own.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Like it or not they have as much right as any other faith to meet up and exercise their faith.

The only other argument I've seen made is in the feedback on the article posted on the Telegraph citing that the organization turns around and sells it's Kingdom Hall church buildings for profits.

And?  Is there a law against that?  I'm not aware of anything stating that once a faith erects a church building it must keep it until the end of time.  The Catholic church did just that same thing with many of it's churches in the New England area not very long ago making the lead story in many news organizations when it happened and was meet by many people protesting to keep their churches.

Overall I say let them build unless a valid reason is found otherwise and so far there hasn't been.