Living Water Church’s “Yelm Campus”
Church advertises Yelm Community Center as their campus
Photo credit: Yelm Chamber of Commerce
– To Yelm Community Blog readers:
I am exceptionally proud of the community conversation this blog has engendered for almost 12 years on may issues affecting our community that would not have seen the light of day otherwise. One such topic has been this Blog’s January 22nd entry on the Living Waters Church renting the Yelm Community Center on Sundays throughout the year. This story garnered the attention of Nisqually Valley News (NVN) Publisher/Editor Michael Wagar to where his reporter called me for an interview Tuesday afternoon, immediately followed by a Question of the Week public survey posted on their Facebook page.
One of the reasons I began publishing this blog is to present the facts for the public to discern for themselves. I am no fan of the NVN skewing their stories and the Question of the Week via omission of the facts.
That is not fair to their readers nor this community.
While the newspaper may frame my blog post as a big to-do about nothing and make me the story, I take issue with the NVN’s brevity of facts with their Facebook polling question:
“Living Water Church in Olympia is opening up a satellite branch at the Yelm Community Center, which is owned by the city. The $40,000 contract will tie up the center on Sunday mornings. Some complain that this goes against the principle of using the center for public use. Do you see this as a problem, or a good move by the city to bring in revenue and assist in a church expanding into Yelm?
Some answers will be included in this week’s Nisqually Valley News.”
I reminded the NVN reporter at the conclusion of my interview, there are two main points:
1. The Yelm Community Center is a publicly financed facility that was built with tax payer funded low income public grant monies, and the City of Yelm operates/maintains the building using citizens’ property tax revenue. Mayor Harding and the council voted on this facility’s low income use grant, which stated the community center was intended to be available for use by the Yelm public, meaning not booked by an out-of-town entity weekly.
Further, Yelm has 16 churches that pay property taxes (if they do here), water/sewer/storm-water fees, B & O taxes, and invest in our town with their employees. How do these churches feel that an out-of-town church sets-up a satellite location in our community center, uses the community center address in their marketing, and avoids all of those expenses, except for their weekly rental fee?
2. For an out-of-town church or ANY organization to call the community center their “Yelm Campus” and listing the center’s address on their website as such, is totally inappropriate for our city’s public facility. NVN Facebook commenters have raised the issue about the separation of church and state in this Constitutional Republic of ours.
That is a valid concern where a church or ANY entity rents our community center every Sunday all year, when our center was just beginning to be utilized by other events on weekends, i.e. an Art Show, Jazz Fest, and the Farmers Market, who was required to move their 2018 Yelm dates on their return to downtown Yelm to Saturdays because of the city’s Sundays contract with the church. And what if a an out of town company or community college wants to rent the community center as a satellite facility one weekday all year long? See where this can go?
These NVN commenters show a few readers can see through the smokescreen to “get it”
“We, the citizens are paying off a $2.5 million bond for this center. What about the Sunday morning Yelm Farmers Market starting on Memorial Day weekend through summer? That is a true community function, not related to inclusive religion, so should not be pushed aside. It always started at 10am with folks setting up booths there at least an hour or so earlier. Will the community now have to flex around a Church schedule? Who will be responsible for their electric consumption, cleaning, key, insurance, liabilities, abuses? Please post their contract so we can evaluate. What will prohibit City Hall from allowing ANY church [or any entity?]to rent in perpetuity moving forward. Churches should find their own private property and set up a rental situation like all others have in this town. If not, they don’t belong here. Obviously this needs to be taken up with the City Council and Mayor.”
“I think the community center ought to be a place for the community to gather and enjoy. Not to be used as a revenue source for city hall.”
“It violates seperation (sic) of church and state. Especially since churches are tax exempt, they have no business using tax funded buildings.”
I expect these issues will be raised by the city council for them to weigh-in, as well!