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The government can’t stop the church, but it can sure hinder it

Posted by Chance on February 1, 2007

I ran into this article, which I thought was amusing, in light of the discussion following my last post concerning if the government pushes church out of the way when it comes to taking care of the poor.

Mary Baker and Ruth Neikirk love to cook. What’s more, they love to cook for poor people. They do it frequently, preparing meals at home and bringing them to their church in Virginia.
The people they cook for love it too. But there’s a problem. It was “criminal activity.” The Fairfax County health department points out that — horrors — Mary and Ruth are actually preparing food and serving it to people! Without a license!

That’s not safe, said the health department. What if there’s food poisoning? Hundreds of pages of regulation say that if you want to serve food to the public, you need a food-manager certificate, a ware-washing machine (with internal baffles), drain-boards, ventilation-hood systems, a sink with at least three compartments, as well as a hand-washing sink, can openers with removable parts, and much more, for page after page.
Rev. Fender added, “They’ve set up a situation that you have to have a $40,000 kitchen to feed someone who’s going to get their food from questionable sources at best.”

John Stossel, who wrote the article, asks Gerry Connolly, the county government official:

What if the health department had been around when Jesus was feeding the poor? “He might have been, you know, cited,” Connolly replied with a laugh.


So this story has a happy ending: Connolly exempted churches from the regulations.
The rules are well-intended. They’re meant to make sure the public is safe. But rule-makers tend to forget that their rules have unintended consequences. And, as James pointed out, eating out of dumpsters is more dangerous than eating at a church without a three-compartment sink.

I still think the commenters making interesting points contributing to the discussion around the church and government’s role in welfare, but I do think the article brings about things to consider on the topic. I really wasn’t trying to disprove anything they said, I just thought the timing of finding this article was amusing and fitting.


One Response to “The government can’t stop the church, but it can sure hinder it”

  1. Josh said

    Great Post! Have a great weekend.

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