City Facing Scrutiny for Allegedly Mandating Churches to Obtain ‘Business Licenses’ to Operate

church pdLAKE WORTH, Fla. — A city in Florida is under scrutiny after it allegedly mandated area churches to obtain business licenses—an allegation that it now denies despite a paper trail to the contrary.

Liberty Counsel, which has offices in Florida, Virginia and Washington, D.C., recently sent a letter to Lake Worth officials on behalf of a number of churches who received letters stating that they were in violation of city code for not obtaining a business license for their operation.

It provided a sample letter from the city’s Business License Division to First Presbyterian Church of Lake Worth, which read in part, “After reviewing our records, it has come to our attention that the business located at the address above is currently operating without a license or the renewal for 2015 has not been received.” (Click here to read the city’s letter to First Presbyterian Church, the last page of the link.)

Liberty Counsel also reports that another church—called Common Grounds Church—which meets regularly in a coffee house, was paid a covert visit by code inspector Gerard Coscia, who submitted a written report about the activities that he saw taking place at the location.

“I walked back to the Coffee Bar and was able to visualize, in my opinion, what appeared to be a ministry in progress,” he wrote. “There was the following going on inside the Coffee Bar: Someone speaking from a podium. A overhead TV or projection with Scripture verse on it. Rows of people sitting in chairs on both sides like a gathering setting. People holding what appeared to be Bibles or religious books as one had a cross on it.”

Coscia said that he talked to one man who appeared to be the minister, and asked if the location “was a church gathering or a coffee shop and he replied, both…” He also noted that he took pictures and video of what occurred inside to hold for “future court presentation.”

“I inspected the property and found the following violations: Business rental property found without a current City of Lake Worth business license, specifically to operate as a church, or a house of worship,” the report read. (Click here to read the report in its entirety.)

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But in a letter to the City of Fort Worth dated Feb. 23, Liberty Counsel notes that the Common Ground Coffee Bar has a business license for its operations, and allows the church to meet at the facility.

“The Coffee Bar has all appropriate business and occupational licenses, and operates in the same premises occupied by a previous, wholly secular, coffee bar,” wrote attorney Richard Mast, Jr. “CG Church uses space at the Coffee Bar on Sunday mornings, Tuesday evening, and at other times during the week.”

The city had allegedly likewise submitted a letter to the church, requiring them to obtain a license by March 2 or face a hearing before a special magistrate, as well as fines between $250-$500 per day if it did not obtain a use and occupancy certificate and a business license.

“Government employees are public servants and prohibited by the Constitution from inhibiting religious freedom. That is a far cry from sneaking around and into a church and acting like KGB agents,” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a press release late last month expressing dismay about the matter.

But now City Manager Michael Bornstein claims that there was some sort of “misunderstanding” about the matter. A second letter dated March 2, written by William Waters, the Director for Department of Community Sustainability, asserts that the city had rather received complaints about proper accommodations for church services at the location, which then spawned an investigation. (Click here to read the letter in its entirety.)

Waters states that the church had not obtained a use and occupancy certificate—which is part of a business license and is required for churches, non-profits and for-profits alike (with churches being exempt from the business taxation element of the law)—and would mandate that the location be inspected for safety issues pertaining to church use. He asserted that the location might not have sufficient ingress and egress, and might face an overcrowding issue.

“We will gladly work with your organization to obtain the expansion of the existing U&O for the assembly use as an accessory to the Common Ground Coffee Bar,” the letter reads.

The city is now also contending that it does not require business licenses for churches per se outside of the use and occupancy requirement, and denies that it had imposed such a mandate on First Presbyterian Church of Lake Worth, in spite of the letter from city officials posted online by Liberty Counsel.


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  • Webb

    “…an allegation that it now denies despite a paper trail to the contrary.”

    Oh, they’re just liars, like our president and his legion of cohorts. Business as usual.

  • The Lone Ranger

    There are presidents that lie and presidents that don’t however now days few, and there are Churches that lie and Churches that don’t however now days few.

    • jmichael39

      The second half of that statement is about as illogical as any I’ve read in a long time.

  • dumpster

    The beast, a corporation posing as a government, is getting greedier and greedier, doing all it can to gain mammon.

  • Mary Waterton

    The children of Satan have tipped their hand for children of God too see. Once sodomite marriage is legalized by the SCOTUS, the next target will be to force churches to perform ceremonies under penalty of discrimination law. Those who think “separation of church and state” (a phrase nowhere found in the Constitution) will save them are in for a rude awakening. In the same way they redefine marriage, they will redefine a church as a business. Christians can either grow a spine and fight the government (up to and including nonviolent civil disobedience), or bend the knee to Satan. God hates cowards (Rev 21:8).

    • Candy Lovett

      You became a slave the minute you became a non profit. You signed those papers and agreed to abide by the rules of the government just so you could get your tax write off. Matthew 6:24 – No one can be slave to two masters; for he will either hate the first and love the second, or scorn the second and be loyal to the first. You can’t be a slave to both God and money. Luke 16:13 – No servant can be slave to two masters, for he will either hate the first and love the second, or scorn the second and be loyal to the first. You can’t be a slave to both God and money.” So much for the religious trusting in their god to meet their needs. They have to trust in the government to help them meet their needs via tax breaks

      • lynn

        That is true with the mega churches, but not so much with the smaller congregations. Most of us don’t fill out the long form tax forms. I just file 1040, and don’t claim any tithes. And I do tithe . It is not the government’s business what I give to others.

        • Candy Lovett

          Lynn, I was talking about the church as a whole. Not individual people and what they give to the church. The church as a whole talks about how their god will supply all their needs and yet depend on the government to give them a tax break. I say tax all the churches and use that tax to help the poor and needy since most of the churches do not do what their own bible tells them to do in Matthew 25:31-46. They expect the government to take care of the needs of the poor when in fact that very Christ they say they believe in commands them to

          • Candy Lovett

            Also for the record in the biblical days tithes only applied to the Jews and it was a tax. Not a tithe the churches twist for their own benefit. If you read the word yourself without listening to what these greedy pastor teach, you will find it yourself

          • lynn

            I have a vote on how the tithes are appropriated in the church I am a member of. There is an accounting each month for every dollar spent. A church cannot operate without funds to pay the bills. Some tithe, some give what they can afford, others don’t contribute . No one is pressured to give.If giving doesn’t come from the heart, then don’t give.my bible says that God loves the cheerful giver.

          • Candy Lovett

            All I am saying is that tithing is not biblical. Giving is. http://www.letusreason.org/doct54.htm

          • Candy Lovett
          • lynn

            I don’t visit links. I am my own man, and if I can’t reason things out for myself, then I just let itgoAgain it is a pride thing.

          • Candy Lovett

            The only reason I posted the links is because they limit the amount of words I can post at one time. You say you are your own man, and yet it seems to me that you do not study the scripture on your own, but rather take the word of some other man or woman who tells you what the word is saying. That is how I stayed dumbed down for too many years. And that is why today I am no longer a believer in anything.

          • lynn

            Actually I do study. My e-bible is open as I am responding to you . I take my tablet with me every time I go to church and highlight every scripture the pastor uses . If he preaches something that I have understand differently, I never just take his view as being correct. Yet I do give him the benefit of my undivided attention, but I go home and study it afresh for myself. I must point out that it is a rare occasion when we disagree. If that was something that occurred on a regular basis, then I would have to find another church.

          • Candy Lovett

            If any church preaches tithing, then they are wrong period. There is nothing wrong with giving, but the tithing message is in error and most ministers do know this. After all the years in christianity as well as other religions, I finally came to the conclusion that religion itself is evil.

          • lynn

            The church I am a member of does not teach tithing. I thought I made it clear that some tithe, and some don’t. I tithe because that’s what I choose to do. If I have the means to do so, and I do, I feel that it’s the right thing for me to do. I am not pushing my belief about this on anyone else . I am only what folks consider to be a lay member, and nothing more.
            God has greatly blessed me, so why shouldn’t I help others, and my church? I do other things to help those less fortunate than myself. I just began to raise vegetable plants for the garden that I will share with a lot of folks this summer. I will plant around 30 rows a hundred feet long. The most that will benefit, God willing” will be the folks that live in the housing project my community. My hope is that there will be enough to supply at least what is lacking from our wonderful government. Now I have sinned again by tooting my own horn. But what I am trying to tell you is that there are a lot of Christians just like me, only better. Night, night.

          • lynn

            I have to agree that a lot of churches need to do more. Some do, such as funding homeless shelters. Some prepare and deliver meals to shut ins. A small church just down the road from me buys and gibes shoes and coats to any child in need, and they also pick up the school lunch tab for those who would otherwise perhaps go hungry. That little church does pretty much all the little congregation can. I have to admit that I am not a member of it. So don’t cast all churches into the same barrel.

          • Candy Lovett

            I said the church as a whole does not do what their own Bible says. It does not say fund the local homeless shelters. It says to take them into your home. Make them your quest.I spent enough time in the christian religion to understand how christians will twist and turn the scriptures around to make them feel good.

          • lynn

            So you judge all by what you observe from a few.

          • Candy Lovett

            I am not judging, I am simply quoting the same word that Christians claim to live their lives by.

          • lynn

            What word is that?

          • lynn

            The bible?

          • Candy Lovett

            Yes

          • lynn

            There are givers and there are takers every where . I like to give.Not so much out of obligation, but is just my nature . I do have a problem though . I don’t like for folks to give me anything. I will admit it is pride, and that is a sin.

      • jmichael39

        Actually, according the IRS, you don’t need the church to incorporate and register as a 501(c)(3) organization in order for donations to that church to be tax deductible.

        • Candy Lovett

          Thanks, that was my point and I have had a hard time trying to find that info. It was LBJ’s way of limiting free speech in the church. http://hushmoney.org/501c3-facts.htm

  • thoughtsfromflorida

    Oh, so they made a mistake, admitted they made a mistake, and clarified what was actually needed. So, basically, this is a non-issue that is attempting to be made into an issue.

    Wow. Slow news day, huh?

    • Better AndBetter

      Fundies must keep up the persecution complex.

  • Better AndBetter

    Good for Lake Worth! All a church is is a business.

  • lynn

    Had it of been an assembly of Muslims worshipping muhammad nothing would have been said.