23rd October 2010, 06:29 AM
Reason is respectable; faith is NOT.
Join Date: Sep 2010
They're building a church by stealth
This really grinds my gears:
Unholy row over school hall funded by government
October 23, 2010
Critics say an evangelical organisation is trying to build a new church by stealth, writes Kelly Burke.
When does a school hall become a multipurpose hall? And when does a multipurpose hall become a church?
These are the questions the residents of the sleepy suburb of Bensville, nestled between Empire Bay and Kincumber on the central coast, are demanding answers about. Opposing political forces are hurling accusations of dodgy development applications and religious intolerance.
At the centre of the row is a Churches of Christ-affiliated organisation, the Coast Christian Church, with a stated mission to convert the 2000-odd residents of Bensville into a ''God-dependent, life-transforming, people-empowering community''. The community's only school happens to be the church-run Coast Christian School, which 137 children attend.
In June, a group of residents lodged a confidential submission to the federal government's inquiry into the Building the Education Revolution program. The submission accused the evangelical organisation of planning to build a government-funded church by stealth, through the use of an $850,000 BER grant, ostensibly for a school hall.
Evidence to back up the claim included an acoustics report submitted by the church to Gosford City Council saying the school hall's busiest times were expected to be Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.
The BER implementation taskforce forwarded the allegations to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for investigation. A departmental spokesman told the Herald assurances had been given by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW that the Coast Christian School ''is committed to operating within the parameters of the BER guidelines'' and that ''the school has indicated it will use the new hall for indoor sporting activities, performances and assemblies''; which is where the investigation appears to have ended.
Meanwhile, the Coast Christian Church applied for a variation of its DA, and on October 5 Gosford City Council recommended for approval a three-stage development, ''comprising a preschool, community hall and additions to the approved BER school hall to be used as a place of public worship''.
The opposing residents, who wish to remain anonymous, have secured the backing of the state Greens MP John Kaye.
''The BER was never intended to fund the development of church complexes, yet that is exactly what is happening at the Coast Community School,'' Dr Kaye said.
''The line that separates church and state has been well and truly crossed. Public funds intended to stimulate the economy and develop primary school buildings have ended up enriching an evangelical church.''
In response, the church has has sent forth the former long-serving Liberal MP, Stephen O'Doherty, the chief executive of the national peak body, Christian Schools Australia.
Mr O'Doherty said the church's bid to use the multipurpose hall as a public place of worship out of school hours with council permission was well within the BER's guidelines and accused Dr Kaye of being ''anti-church and anti-religious''.
''The allegations [of misuse of BER funds] are unsubstantial, they are offensive to the church and they are offensive to the school,'' he said.
With little more achieved than the slab laid for the disputed hall, the Coast Christian Church for the time being will continue its mission to convert the citizens of Bensville into a God-dependent, life-transforming, people-empowering community at its existing headquarters - the local public high school in neighbouring Kincumber.
Faith is not a virtue... it is a servile weakness, it is a refuge in cowardice, and it is a willingness to follow with credulity people who are, in the highest degree, unscrupulous. - Christopher Hitchens