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Hemmed In

The 1600 block of Story Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky offers a story of resiliency. This area was originally developed in the mid to late 19th century, and the church was a new neighborhood mission of First Lutheran Church on Broadway. Our building was dedicated in 1887. The neighborhood teemed with young families and children, and was home to many stock yards, meat packing businesses, and breweries. In that era, most of the wastes went into Beargrass Creek, which runs just a half block behind the church. Sanitary, it was not. In fact, when the course of the creek was rerouted (it previously tracked toward downtown), several workers died from infections they caught in the grossly polluted water.

After the creek was rerouted, a smoldering dumping ground grew up in the old creek bed. Older residents can remember it stinking and smoking all the time.

Now, the metro car impoundment lot is there. Are you getting my drift? This congregation has thrived in spite of being hemmed in by inner-urban forces.

I also have to give honorable mention to the 1937 and 1945 floods, which caused the evacuation and condemnation of the neighborhood on "the Point," and development of the I-64 corridor, which literally cut Butchertown in half. And, when the JBS packing house doesn't follow city ordinances, it still stinks, literally. Hemmed in, indeed.

I am giving this little historical overview, because now we are being hemmed in by other forces which are much harder to see. We have among us many different perspectives about government assistance and intervention, but we have shared a general agreement that government partnership with charitable agencies and individual initiatives has been a good thing for our neighborhoods and those in need. United Crescent Hill Ministries is a good example. Uspiritus is another one. Both are public-private partnership non-profits, with religious underpinnings. Now, such agencies are being hemmed in by an unexpected force. The Kentucky legislature and governor have passed a bill which applies the 6% sales tax to all charitable fundraisers of such organizations. For example, the Santa Sprint for UCHM will be taxed 6%. That is 6% of your charitable giving now redirected toward balancing the state budget. You may agree that the state budget should be balanced, but is this the way? Hemming in charitable agencies on every side? I can tell you from the street-level, this feels like a war on the poor, and it is an odd turn of events at the hands of politicians who claim to be champions of religious freedom.

The federal law concerning religious institutions has changed as well, but that is best left for another blog. Let's just say if the church provided me with a parking space (not going to happen) it would be taxed!

We will persevere, but we should also let our representatives know our displeasure as people of faith.

Christ's Peace, Greg

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