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Monday, September 24, 2012

Is Portland planning bureau a church?

Our day job as a tax lawyer recently found us pondering the definition of a "church" for federal tax purposes. Among the factors taken into account in determining whether an organization fits that description are:

(1) a distinct legal existence
(2) a recognized creed and form of worship
(3) a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
(4) a formal code of doctrine and discipline
(5) a distinct religious history
(6) a membership not associated with any other church or denomination
(7) an organization of ordained ministers
(8) ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies
(9) a literature of its own
(10) established places of worship
(11) regular congregations
(12) regular religious services
(13) schools for the religious instruction of the young
(14) schools for the preparation of its ministers

Then it occurred to us: That sounds a lot like the City of Portland "planning and sustainability" bureau, doesn't it? Or maybe the Metro government. Certainly planning the Portland way requires a great deal of faith. Many of its teachings are supernatural.

Comments (9)

Yes, our local planning regime is absolutely like a religion. It is faith-based. There is very little hard data underlying it's main tenets, and in some cases, data contradicts the main tenets. Followers are a big ol' choir preaching to each other, with dissenting voices dismissed and/or thrown out.

Let's examine the following current example: "If you build apartments with no parking, the people who live there won't own cars."

This statement is not true, and there is no data underlying it, but the members of the cult believe it absolutely. If you disagree, you will be savagely attacked by the "right thinking" people. No matter how long you've lived here, you will labeled as an apostate who doesn't understand Portland, quite likely by people who have lived here just a few years. You will be cast out of the church as someone who should just "move to Beaverton." The high Priests in City Hall will trample over you with impunity unless you can gather enough numbers that the media can't ignore you anymore (like the combined nieghborhood associations.)

The "church" was formed in 1973, with the passing of Senate Bill 100. Probably well-intentioned, but went off the rails early because the legislature delegate their authority to a state agency and a commmission appointed by the governor, the agency was quickly populated by the same zealots who work for Metro and Portland planning, and advocacy groups were formed to never give an inch. Like many religions, what was originally intended has been warped to serve the desires of those who profit.

Today, despite more modern and thoughtful efforts by legislatures in other states, we remain paralyzed by fear that any change to the "Oregon way" will result in the complete devastation of the environment. Reasonable minds could fix this problem, but there's a tremendous shortage of those types in positions of power in this state.

Don't forget this exchange with Charlie Hales from my interview last November. At least he showed some sense of humor about the idea:

Me: Okay, Willamette Week had three people asking you questions back in 2002 at that exit interview, and at one point they express concern about the new head of planning. That part’s irrelevant now, but just listen to the statement they make at the beginning of their question.

They say, “There was a period of time in this city, and not that long ago, when the Planning Bureau was the spiritual heart and soul of this community, and the planning director helped make this city distinctive.”

By the way, when they said that, were they actually sitting in your lap or did they have their own chairs? Never mind.

HALES: They weren’t praying either even though they were talking spiritualism.

Me: The point is, by the end of your time as commissioner, this town was knee-deep in the planning Kool-Aid, wasn’t it? We were marinating in it. The planning bureau as the spiritual heart and soul of the city? Isn’t that statement all the proof you need that we had entered an age of out-of-control city planning, an age we’re still in?

HALES: Who says Portland is the most un-churched city in the country? We’re all members of the Church of Urban Planning. Portland… sometimes we believe our own hype, but we have done some things right in this city. I mean, we do have a healthier and more livable city than we had 20 years ago, but, and you pointed it out, there are a lot of parts of Portland that aren’t on the postcard, that aren’t on the tour for the group from out of town, and need to be made into good Portland neighborhoods.

Portland isn't a church it's a Kingdom.

King Sam does what King Sam wants.

There ought really to be closure of tax loopholes or waiviers for (subsidizing) 'religion' or 'church.' Ever since 'religion righteousness' or 'church-grade morality' started spending the congregation 'charity money' collection to fund political activism, [which is to say circa 1975, when Pat Robertson solicited 'donor envelopes' mailed to his cableTV channel, received 100s-million$ unaccounted untaxed as 'religious charity,' and spent the money to campaign for president, and failed at it, and yet more million of dollars of 'moral money' ('religion donations') continued pouring into the 'TV station' which Robertson diverted to fund others' campaigns - notably Reagan/Bush '80 several millions of 'church dollars' from cableTV 'religiosity'], the self-claimed moral supremacy and authentic purity, monastic apart from civil affairs, in 'religion' and 'church' is all hogwash. Preaching spam for scam.
No representation without taxation. While 'religion' and 'church' drives and designs politicians and political argument for representation of religion 'concerns' (in lawmaking), 1975 - today, therefor require taxation on 'religion' and 'church.' In order to call the tune, such 'morality' institutions must pay up to procure the piper piping.

(So interesting, Jack, that you research 'church' in tax matters at this time. How much increase of Oregon revenue is at stake should property tax be collected for church properties, (not waived), including Rajneeshees, Portland's Church of Elvis, the franchised 'Catholic' houses of sin, and the rest?)

In the posted list of conditional criteria there are at least four which could be argued that the Mormon 'church' lacks, or fails. Which segues to another question: Please can someone explain, (or ask Lars Larson to explain), What's the difference between Mormonism and Christianity? Also, What's the difference between Zionism and Judaism? Since these set 'pairs' are not the same ... and adherents (tax-dodge opportunists?) don't pay the same taxes; (I believe Christians pay more taxes than Mormons, for example, so what's different about 'them').

Comment ending note: Last week experts in Middle East culture and affairs announced the first evidence

in written documentation Jesus was married. Are we in danger of political unrest or riot among 'Christians' protesting that the historical (archeological) facts on the ground debases 'their' messiah's purity? Or protesting revelation of first proof that the 2000-yr longstanding sexual abnormality of priethood celibacy has all been fraudulent or twisted or ... misrepresentation?

To the question of the Portland planning bureau standing as a 'church,' and in essence, i.) for proselytizing, ii.) for not being taxed, and iii.) for misrepresenting its salvation 'mission' and unaudited spending to its 'congregation' (community), yeah, it's a 'church.' Full stop.

Now it they only would do a Jim Jones, David Koresh or Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate. I would pay for the Kool-Aid.


More a cult than a legitimate church Jack...

More a miracle cult - Things happen because of faith and belief, not science nor reality. And the only reason things don't happen is because we haven't burned enough money at the altar.

I'm amazed they keep finding the idiots to attend the acts of faith conferences and actually make donations (erm, that us isn't it?)

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