Nov. 22, 2011
Bill McGurn's piece in today's Wall Street Journal describes how a wonderful ministry to the poor - the Morristown, New Jersey Community Soup Kitchen and Outreach Center - has now been declared a "retail" establishment by a local bureaucrat. As a result, the ministry could be hit with up to $150,000 in new annual costs. According to McGurn, this ministry "has grown into a network that links restaurants, corporate sponsors and community groups with volunteers from nearly three dozen church congregations, including this reporter's. The result is a hot meal to anyone who comes to the door each noon, no questions asked." In other words, it works - no wonder local government feels threatened by it.
A significant part of the new costs will come from the city's ban on home-cooked meals being served at the Center; as McGurn asks, "Do you feel safer and better off now that we've protected you from home-baked apple pie?"
Anyone familiar with church budgets knows that for most churches, even when they work in consortium, this amount is untenable or at least difficult to reach. Even so-called "wealthy" churches are going through lean times, reducing their budgets, trimming hours for staff, and prioritizing resources such that some worthwhile activities are curtailed or canceled.
We can hope that Gov. Christie, whose commitment to fiscal sanity remains rare and refreshing, will take what action he can to stop this pristine example of government overreach.
McGurn closes with this: "On a 1995 trip to New Delhi, Hillary Clinton visited an orphanage run by Mother Teresa's nuns. She came away impressed by the great love and care she found there. With no small irony, she noted it was a place that 'would not have passed inspection in the U.S'."
Having been to one of Mother Teresa's orphanages in India, I can speak to the fact that while it is an older building complex, its cleanliness is first-rate and the children being cared for well-fed and happy. Watching severely disabled children being fed and bedded was an unforgettable experience. But for once I agree with Hillary Clinton: In our country, busybody regulators would no doubt close it. As McGurn says, "at least ... in Morristown."