Canadian Christian TV host Lorna Dueck writes in The Globe and Mail newspaper:
The good news:
Benefits of belief in the supernatural face the logic of urban planning this week. Toronto’s bylaw harmonization hearings will decide what to do with the mystery of how places of worship benefit the common good and whether they should be given special consideration in the city’s zoning plan. The argument in their favour: the “halo effect,” a discovery that calculates measurable benefits that researchers find when communities gather for sacred and public purposes combined…
…So what’s the halo effect? It’s a term coined by secular researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who questioned how to put a price tag on the investment that local congregations generate for the public good. They found that 12 Philadelphia congregations contributed $52-million in annual economic value to the city. More consumers put money directly into the economy, buying goods and services locally as weddings and funerals made the cash registers ring. Education and social services were part of the payoff, with programs for children, parents and the elderly.
The bad news:
But if you’re a neighbour tired of the comings and goings of a faith-run daycare or basketball nets in your laneway or worship services that sprawl parking around every curb, things aren’t quite so angelic. If you’re a municipality trying to pay for roads, consider the irritant of religious organizations buying land in light industrial zones, forever being exempt from taxes.
Read more of Lorna regularly at her blog.