“The First Thing We Do . . .”

April 26, 2005 | 67 comments
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There have been three new rules in the Church in the last year that have really angered and saddened me. Especially since, if I were in a position to do so, I would have made the same rules.

The first is from about a year ago: news came down that Institute classes could no longer offer babysitting (which was usually accomplished by the parents in the classs taking turns in the nursery). This spelled the end of the ‘mommy class’ popular in many stakes. I asked what the rationale was and was told that the problem was legal liability.

The second is from a few years ago: Enrichment meeting could no longer staff its nursery with other ward members (or sisters from another ward), but only with the women who would otherwise be attending that enrichment meeting. Again, liability issues.

And finally, this First Presidency Letter is circulating on the Internet:

April 19, 2005

Some members of the Church teach their children at home rather than
sending them to a public or private school. Groups of these parents often
combine to offer activities for their children and increasingly request
that Church meetinghouses be made available to host such activities.

While the Church strongly encourages education, Church facilities are
dedicated for the purpose of worship, religious instruction, and other
Church- related activities. Church meetinghouses should not be used as
home school or day care facilities, or for hosting home school
activities. Adherence to this policy will help avoid safety and tax liabilities
for the church.

Sincerely yours,

The First Presidency

While I am not involved with the LDS homeschoolers in Austin, I know that they have a coop that has been meeting at the stake center. They are now looking for another location. I am a part of homeschooling groups that meet at local Baptist and Unitarian churches.

Again, I’m sad and angry about these rules but would probably have instituted them myself. If I were given stewardship over tithing money (or a CES budget) the last thing that I would do is open myself up to multimillion-dollar lawsuits.

So I don’t blame the Brethren. I blame the lawyers.

But then I take a deep breath and think about one of my favorite P.J. O’Rourke notions: that in a country where you cannot enforce legal contracts, you end up having to enforce the other kind of contracts (think former Soviet Union).

I suppose this is just part of the deal of fallen mortality: lawsuits, lawyers, and it all.

But if anyone knows how to get young mothers to an Institute class, please let me know.

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67 Responses to “The First Thing We Do . . .”

  1. Bryce I on April 26, 2005 at 10:01 pm

    Here’s a link to a pdf version of the letter, if anyone wants to convince themselves further of the accuracy of Julie’s post (or if you need a template to photoshop your own First Presidency letter …)

    I’m pretty much in agreement — the rules stink, but I understand the need, and I’d make the same decisions too.

    As for young mothers and Institute, there’s no reason why you can’t use the resources of the Institute to help young mothers network to arrange for shared or rotating child care at their homes, is there? Not nearly as convenient as having the child care at the Institute building itself, but it’s something.

  2. Bryce I on April 26, 2005 at 10:03 pm

    As for Enrichment, come on Dads! If you can’t clear out one night a month, you need to seriously think about a career change.

    /realizes that there are plenty of people to whom this does not apply, including single mothers.

  3. Allison on April 26, 2005 at 10:08 pm

    Huh. Our ward does all three of the above (well, the third has only been in the summer months; we’ve formed a sort of day-camp co-op that’s been a big hit with our kids. But basically the same thing.). I didn’t realize we were violating any new rules. I’m not going to mention it to anyone, though.

  4. obi-wan on April 26, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    So I don’t blame the Brethren. I blame the lawyers.

    Perhaps you should blame the Brethren’s lawyers? There are liability shifting mechanisms (such as waivers) that would allow all these activities to continue IF the Church wanted to.

    Tort liability is a valid concern, but just as frequently makes a convenient excuse for other agendas.

  5. lyle on April 26, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    I don’t agree at all. Wow. Did I say that? The Church is about building Zion; which is a community. The meetinghouse is the center of our community. How can it be so if its usage is so limited? Frankly, I think this is a very poor decision. Legal liabilities can be mitigated, waived, or accounted for. And the part about tax liability? Only if a liberal dem became president and wanted to lay waste to religious tax exemptions would that ever become an issue; unless I missed something in Tax. John?

  6. lyle on April 26, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    Neat. I agreed with Obi-wan on something (we were both typing at the same time; so I didn’t see his comment while writing mine). Now I almost sound smart! :)

  7. Henry Drummond on April 26, 2005 at 11:17 pm

    And . . . how about, the first thing we do, let’s kill all the bloggers who quote Shakespeare out of context?

  8. J,im F on April 26, 2005 at 11:27 pm

    But if we did that, Henry Drummond, there would be no bloggers left.

  9. Ben H on April 27, 2005 at 12:32 am

    Ouch. I too would really like to see the churches seriously function as community centers. I worry that decisions like this further undermine the sense of community that we might otherwise hope would protect us from people resorting to nasty law battles. Is it a vicious cycle?

  10. Guy W. Murray on April 27, 2005 at 12:42 am

    Julie wrote: “So I don’t blame the Brethren. I blame the lawyers.”

    Julie, this may seem like a simplistic response; however, the fact remains that it is the aggrieved, or perceived aggrieved individual who seeks out the lawyer. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. And, why should home schoolers be afforded an advantage of the use of a church facility over non homeschoolers? One of the letters we heard in sacrament last Sunday was about discouraging the use of Church facilities for use by sports teams, which may have Church members on the team i.e., a school or other non church team. I think it is a good decision, for the reasons outlined in the letter. Not every ill, however, can or should be laid at the feet of the lawyers.

  11. Johnna Cornett on April 27, 2005 at 1:38 am

    In our Stake, a Bishop and his wife are providing childcare in their home to the young mothers in that ward who wish to attend institute. Three young mothers have joined the class. This is such a good thing–not only is the Word of God such a source of strength for mothers, but the meeting together aspect also helps with PPD, see earlier T&S post.

    I missed institute so sorely this year, I joined my local Bible Study Fellowship International, which offers preschool classes for children 2-5. All basically free, and really worthwhile, well-designed program, but definitely nonMormon Christian in some of its approaches.

    Us homeless institute mothers have talked about organizing a floating study group of our own. But doing anything LDS but not having some priesthood person to look over it–that’s a strange space to negotiate.

  12. Bruce H. on April 27, 2005 at 5:38 am

    Two commenters mentioned waivers. The problem with that is that in general, in the US, you can’t waive negligence, and in today’s legal atmosphere, there’s no telling what behavior a jury might decide was negligent.

  13. Kristine on April 27, 2005 at 5:50 am

    I live in the stake next door to one where the nursery for Enrichment evening was apparently regularly staffed by two male ward members, one of whom was a convicted sex offender. If following these policies helps avoid situations like that, then I’m willing to reluctantly accept the loss of community that results.

  14. lyle on April 27, 2005 at 6:12 am

    Kristine: The stake next door should be shot; and I’m sure all it would take is one little letter to SLC or a phone call; and that individual would be yanked out of that nursery right fast. Decreased ward building usage isn’t an answer to enforcing an existing policy that _prohibits_ the situation you describe.

  15. John Mansfield on April 27, 2005 at 6:33 am

    “My insurance won’t cover it” is simply a polite fiction all involved are supposed to understand means “No, you can’t; I don’t trust you.” After all, if the insurance situation truly were an undesired obstacle, we would change the coverage.

  16. lyle on April 27, 2005 at 7:11 am

    Adding coverage would entail adding cost. While I have “no dog” in this fight, per se, I’ll note that adding coverage = added cost. Perhaps the Prophet felt that spending tithing dollars in that manner, while they would be a “good” use, were simply not the ‘best’ use of the money. At least, that is what I’m telling myself.

  17. Justin H on April 27, 2005 at 7:32 am

    To give an example of Bruce H’s scenario (#12), my then 2-yr.-old daughter’s leg was broken in nursery (during regular Sunday meetings) by a large folding table that had been left propped against a wall and then fell. The nursery workers didn’t come to get us; we didn’t find out what had happened until the block was over.

    I don’t know the law, but from the eagerness with which my bishop had me filling out forms, I’m guessing that had I wanted to, I could have brought a suit. (This is nothing against our bishop at the time–he was a good leader and clearly concerned about our daughter’s welfare.) Of course, I stand sat upon if this is not a pertinent example.

  18. Justin H on April 27, 2005 at 7:34 am

    Re John and Lyle (15&16): Isn’t the Church self-insured? How does that work re: this discussion?

  19. Frank McIntyre on April 27, 2005 at 7:44 am

    Self insurance does not change the underlying cost of insurance. It just means you plan on bearing higher risk in exchange for lower average payouts. By the way, I don’t know if or to what extent the Church is self-insured.

  20. Taylor on April 27, 2005 at 8:02 am

    What is the difference between babysitting during institute and nursury/primary during Sunday school?

  21. John Mansfield on April 27, 2005 at 8:15 am

    Justin H, I was employing “My insurance won’t cover it” as a cliche standing in for the general concept of using an impersonal third party (insurance company, “liability,” lawyers) as the scapegoat for some friction point between two other parties. As Lyle points out, there may be cost issues involved, but we don’t tell our brother with a lousy driving record that we can’t afford to lend him our car; we just lament the obstacle that insurance poses.

  22. Elisabeth on April 27, 2005 at 8:26 am

    Raising a practical question – is there anything “we”, i.e., lay church members can do to amend the policy set forth in the letter above? I’m curious to know what options are out there (besides calling your father-in-law who happens to be a GA), to change policies that have perhaps unintended, but very negative consequences.

  23. Mark B. on April 27, 2005 at 8:31 am

    Another correction: waiving your right to sue for negligence isn’t the problem. Such waivers are enforceable (with qualifications, etc. etc.) It’s just that a minor’s waiver is generally not enforceable, so if you got the three-year-old to waive his or her right to sue, that wouldn’t stop the child from changing its mind, and the waiver wouldn’t stop the suit.

    And, willful misconduct cannot be waived. So, whatever the waiver said, it wouldn’t stop the suit arising from someone’s abusing a child.

  24. JrL on April 27, 2005 at 8:42 am

    Julie, could you (or someone) give citations for your first two rules? I’ve never heard of them. Certainly many (all?) of the Relief Societies in our stake violate the second. I haven’t heard of the first, but then again, we didn’t have any Institute nurseries to get rid of.

  25. Dan Barnes on April 27, 2005 at 8:56 am

    Additionally, wouldn’t the church be considered a “partner” in the home-school….um, madness? I’m sure someone, somewhere would imply the church is endorsing homeschool by allowing the use of the buildings.

  26. GL on April 27, 2005 at 9:09 am

    Julie,

    Not to sound too insensitive, but it almost sounds as if you feel as though as a member of the church, that there are particular circumstances that “entitle” members, including yourself to child care.

    I agree with the other posters that it is unfortunate that the Church cannot be of a more communal location. Last month, our ward had a stake temple day where buses transported members, but we were told that children were not allowed on the buses (you could still drive up on your own with your children). We ended up just having to hire a baby-sitter (it was our only option for us to go the temple) although it would have been nice if some sort of child care provisions were put in place.

    Also, it would be interesting to determine whether or not particular groups (such as home-schoolers) were actually abusing or taking advantage of church facilities. From the letter your posted, it clearly states that parents were “increasingly” requesting that “Church meetinghouses be made available to host such activities.” Let’s be a bit more objective here concerning the possibility that church members were unfortunately “mooching” or “free-riding” the use of what should be a sacred building.

    As per the lawsuit issue, sure, let’s put some of the blame on the greedy lawyers (like the rest of society), but how about putting the onus on the some of the members that are actually instituting these suits??? A member of our ward a couple years ago lost his finger when it got slammed in the car door accidently by another member. Since the member at the time of the accident was given a ride to the church and the accident occurred on church property, he sued the church, the member driving the car, and the member that accidently slammed the car door.

  27. Nate Oman on April 27, 2005 at 9:20 am

    I wonder how other churches that run day cares, etc. deal with liability issues. I suspect that it works through a variety of mechanisms:

    1. They purchase liability insurance and charge for the services to cover the costs.
    2. They are organized so that each congregation is an autonomous corporate unit with relatively few assets, which makes it effectively judgement proof. If I was a contingency fee liability lawyer and someone came to me with a great suit against the local baptist congregation (assets: Church building — encumbered by mortgage, small bank account, revenues for day care) I doubt that I would take it. The LDS Church, on the other hand, has deep pockets and is worth suing.

    In about 1900 the Church as a corporation actually owned a fairly limited amount of property. Church lawyers had created dozens of seperate corporate entities — generally stakes — that held the lion’s share of Church property. This disaggregated corporate scheme was never really put to the test, and since that time my understanding is that it has been essentially dismantled so that Church property — at least in the United States — is held by three or four corporations.

    One could imagine a corporate restructing of the Church’s assets that would make any individual unit into an autonomous entity that was essentially judgment proof. The problem is that I suspect that efforts to maintain ecclesiastical control and cohesion would lead courts to disregard local corporate status on some sort of an alter-ego theory. I don’t know much about corporate law and even less about non-profit law, but I wonder to what extent the Church could avoid these problems by rendering itself a less inviting target for suit.

  28. annegb on April 27, 2005 at 9:44 am

    Allison, you are my kind of girl. Just keep your mouth shut and apologize profusely if you get caught.

    I don’t know about all this homeschooling and legal stuff, but it has bothered me for a long time that our facilities are not more available to our neighborhoods and communities. We are very stingy with our big cultural halls and basketball hoops. I don’t think it’s only about legalities. I think it’s stingy. If nobody’s in there, a bunch of middle school kids would have a blast playing basketball. Why couldn’t a family go down there and play if nobody else is there? It’s arbitrary and selfish.

    The Presbyterian Church lets all kinds of people use their buildings and nobody’s been sued yet. I have a key to their church. They didn’t even ask questions, just handed it over.

    Too much red tape here, it’s shutting out the spirit of the gospel.

  29. Julie in Austin on April 27, 2005 at 9:44 am

    JrL–

    I know of the CES rule through my contact with local CES leaders in the Austin area, I know of the Enrichment nursery rule through local RS leadership.

    GL–

    To clarify, this isn’t about ‘entitlement’ to childcare, but rather the ability to establish cooperative childcare in a church facility while parents remain on the premises. While I don’t think I have a ‘right’ to these, I think that in an ideal world, we’d be able to use our Church buildings for events that benefit the saints and others in the community. But I completely understand and support the Church when it wants to avoid liability for the broken legs of two-year-olds, 14 year olds making out (or worse) on the stage, registered sex offenders in nursery, not to mention wear and tear on the buildings and the fact that no one ever cleans up after themselves.

    (To be fair, our Austin homeschool coop had vrey thorough and complicated clean up procedures for the building, but I don’t think that that is the norm.)

    There are other reasons to not want homeschoolers in the building–it can be difficult to know where to draw the line. The difference between a homeschool coop charging 3$ for art supplies and a private school being run out of the church is a difference of degree, not kind. The Institute and Enrichment situations are murkier, but would still have the legal liability issues.

  30. Elisabeth on April 27, 2005 at 10:08 am

    Hi, Julie –

    Why do you say that you would “have made the same rules”? Unfortunately, we don’t have the facts in front of us to know this, but, given the examples of other churches who host many varied and meaningful activities, the cost of liability insurance isn’t prohibitive.

    So why do you think the Mormon Church should be any less open with its meeting houses than the Baptist and Unitarian churches?

  31. Pink Floyd on April 27, 2005 at 10:24 am

    Re #10: Guy W. Murray said: “Julie, this may seem like a simplistic response; however, the fact remains that it is the aggrieved, or perceived aggrieved individual who seeks out the lawyer. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.”

    Spoken like a true lawyer. If it wasn’t for the “Call now if you have been in an accident, we get you the money you deserve” lawyers on TV, or the full page color ads in the newspaper for anyone who has ever touched a Phen-Phen bottle (“We have doctors on staff waiting to examine you!”), or the smarmy pictures on both the front and back cover of my yellow pages section (“We handle any injury claims, no matter how small”), no one would even think of suing the church and the Young Women Enrichment Night Nursery volunteers if their little Suzie gets a sliver on a toy or little Johnny goes home with a tummy ache after eating too many Oreos at the Ward dinner.

    Lawyers have to share some of the blame.

    Sorry. I forgot what blog I was in. Back to Nauvoo…

  32. GL on April 27, 2005 at 10:28 am

    “Cooperative childcare” — thanks for the clarification Julie in Austin.

    As per the issue concerning whether Mormon churches should be more open and accessible to the community, I think u have touched on an important point, that is “wear and tear on the buildings and the fact that no one ever cleans up after themselves.”

    If we as members of the church have a difficult time cleaning up and maintaining our buildings as tithe payers, just think of how difficult it would be if such buildings were accessible to the (non-tithing) public at large. Isn’t this the same free-rider problem associated with issues such as environmental dumping?

    Kind of reminds me every time I go to the nearest Salvation Army facility which is used by multiple community groups, various church services, etc…. the buildings aren’t kept or maintained nearly as well as our buildings.

    I guess as one poster put it, it is being stingy.

    But maybe Julie in Austin has a good suggestion, creating a uniform set of building procedures, etc..

  33. GL on April 27, 2005 at 10:32 am

    Pink Floyd,

    Everyone hates lawyers except their own. In fact, you have a broad selection of lawyers on this Board in the event you are injured by a negligently installed church basketball hoop (totally kidding of course).

  34. Pink Floyd on April 27, 2005 at 10:35 am

    GL:

    Yeah, just don’t forget to include the table manufacturer for the table the young men put underneath the basket so they could jump on it to practice their dunks. Heaven forbid the kids may just be at fault.

  35. Pink Floyd on April 27, 2005 at 10:37 am

    Just totally kidding of course

  36. Bryce I on April 27, 2005 at 10:40 am

    Well, Kaimi has trackbacks turned off, so I’ll just link here to my take on the situation.

  37. Mike Parker on April 27, 2005 at 10:42 am

    Guy W. Murray (#10): Not every ill, however, can or should be laid at the feet of the lawyers.

    Guy is correct. We also have to blame the idiotic judges who don’t throw out suits that have little or no merit.

    “And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges.” — Alma 10:27.

    (Hey, if Julie can misquote Shakespeare, why can’t I misquote the Book of Mormon?) ;-)

  38. Elisabeth on April 27, 2005 at 10:50 am

    Wow – lots of lawyer bashing going on here today. Let’s not detract from Julie’s main point (which was not to bash the lawyers, but was to discuss the change in Church policy).

    Could it be that many of the people who blog here are lawyers, so the anonymous posters are getting in their digs while they can? Kinda lame.

    Anyway, Pink Floyd hates lawyers because lawyers may make the group finally share royalties with the school children who got stiffed for singing the chorus in “Another Brick in the Wall” (we don’t need no education).

  39. GL on April 27, 2005 at 10:50 am

    Pink Floyd: I recommend u take your complaints up with Faust, Oakes, Jensen, or any of the other 10 or so lawyer-trained church leaders.

    Bryce — Enjoyed your post at MS very much. I think it sums up this whole issue. Yea, I prefer the above policy to being asked to move across the country as well.

  40. Mark Martin on April 27, 2005 at 10:54 am

    For anyone who at least partially agrees with #37, and would like to occasionally receive periodic emails of documented cases of recent ridiculous suits, I suggest visiting http://www.stellaawards.com

  41. Ana on April 27, 2005 at 10:58 am

    To me it seems like one solution for moms who might be having trouble finding childcare for Institute or Enrichment would be simply to organize their own cooperative solution, but to have it take place in their homes instead of at the church. The nursery … er, playdate, whatever … could rotate among homes just as the duties rotated among parents when they were doing it at the church. If needed, more than one home could be chosen to accommodate the number of children and/or the geographic locations of the families. Then the parents could even carpool to Institute or Enrichment from that place after dropping off their children.

    For homeschool gatherings, what about a meeting room at your local library? Those are usually free. For more physical activities, doesn’t the community have a rec center of some kind? That’s exactly the kind of thing those facilities should be used for.

  42. Mark Martin on April 27, 2005 at 11:00 am

    #41 is not intended as lawyer-bashing. Rather, just a take on when the system runs amock courtesy of those who act in ways that give a bad name to an otherwise good profession. The purpose is to entertain, but also to raise awareness on the issues involved with real tort reform.

    … and now (hopefully), back to childcare, schooling, and the use of LDS meetinghouses …

  43. Mark Martin on April 27, 2005 at 11:02 am

    Re: #40, 41, 42

    Sorry Ana, #42 was supposed to say that #40 was not intended as lawyer-bashing.
    (I hope my mistake led others to read your useful suggestions!)

  44. Pink Floyd on April 27, 2005 at 11:03 am

    Well known Elisabeth said in #38: “Could it be that many of the people who blog here are lawyers, so the anonymous posters are getting in their digs while they can? Kinda lame.

    Anyway, Pink Floyd hates lawyers because lawyers may make the group finally share royalties with the school children who got stiffed for singing the chorus in “Another Brick in the Wall” (we don’t need no education).”

    Excuse me for posting where I shouldn’t. I don’t hate lawyers as you say, I only get my dander up when they say as they did above: “Hey, it isn’t our fault, the fact remains that it is the aggrieved, or perceived aggrieved individual who seeks out the lawyer.”

    Back to lurking where I belong.

  45. DavidH on April 27, 2005 at 11:06 am

    Julie,

    My wife is the enrichment counselor in our stake RS presidency, and has not heard of the policy you describe regarding enrichment nurseries. Could this be a policy limited to your area of the Church?

  46. GL on April 27, 2005 at 11:10 am

    Mark,

    So are u suggesting that “real” tort reform would have actually changed the outcome of the Church’s April 19, 2005 policy?

    Also, as mentioned prior, I would still be interested in determining whether or not particular groups (such as home-schoolers) were actually abusing or taking advantage of church facilities. Again, the Church’s letter clearly states, that parents were “increasingly” requesting that “Church meetinghouses be made available to host such activities.”

    Let’s be a bit more objective here concerning the possibility that church members were unfortunately “abusing”, “mooching” or “free-riding” (albeit probably unintentionally) the use of what should be a sacred building.

  47. Todd Lundell on April 27, 2005 at 11:15 am

    Sorry if this post duplicates others, I didn’t have time to read them all. But I have a question:

    I can see how #1 and #3 would avoid liability by simply eliminating certain uses of church property. But #2 doesn’t reduce the risk of liability at all, does it? Why should it matter from the perspective of avoiding liability if (A) Relief Society Sisters Emma and Mary, who should be attending enrichment, staffs the nursery or (B) John and Andy from the Elder’s quorum?

    How does that limit liability?

  48. Mark Martin on April 27, 2005 at 11:28 am

    GL,
    No, I’m not suggesting that tort reform would change the outcome of this policy. I was only sharing info about a e-newsletter that I have enjoyed for about a year, since it seemed to fit in with a comment. I don’t have suggestions on how the policy and outcome could be improved.

    As an aside, however, I’m thinking that in the future as a home teacher, maybe I should offer babysitting as an occasional service during Enrichment if I home teach a single mother. But that brings up another issue which perhaps the ladies could comment on. How can the men, who offer home babysitting services during Enrichment time, provide assurance of safety so that the women can have peace of mind entrusting children to their care? Is it enough just to have a trusting friendship? Is it better for two or three men to be in one home watching over several children? Any other ideas?

  49. GL on April 27, 2005 at 11:39 am

    Follow-up question:

    Something I have a problem with is that quite a few ppl are extrapolating from the letter in support of the proposition that the underlying policy justification was SOLELY the avoidance of frivolous legal suits (to be differentiated somewhat from general safety and tax liability and common-sense policy).

    The plain language of the letter clearly states “Adherence to this policy will help avoid safety and tax liabilities.”

    Although I am sure legal liabilities are definitely a part of this decision and can be inferred from “safety” and “liabilities”, etc… , if legal liability was a pre-eminent concern, why not just include the phrase legal liability. Maybe I am reading way into the letter and be happy to let me know if I am.

  50. Jay S. on April 27, 2005 at 12:10 pm

    I agree about the liability being a concern. But there is a potentially bigger concern for me that justifies this new policy.
    That concern is one of inclusion.

    In the ward we recently moved in to there is a coop amoung several families in the ward (6-8 I believe) who have children aged 2-3. They get together once a week and rotate teaching a lesson. I think this is fine. The problem is that they would occasionally make announcements at church regarding the activities. The word got out, and a few other parents wanted to join said group but were not allowed, in a somewhat rude manner. Feelings were hurt, and at least one sister stopped coming to church as actively as she had before. My point here is not to say that the playgroup/coop shouldn’t be allowed, I think it is a great thing, and they should be free to choose who to invite. The problem comes when using the church, either in its facilities or as a forum. It becomes as if the church is endorsing it, and if the church is, it should be open to all. This endorsement problem can also extend to other activites, IE if the “homeschool” is politically based ie Ben Franklin Academy, or used for a political meeting the church could be seen as endorsing this.
    I think this “elitism” problem can also be a concern for other uses of the facilites. In my ward growing up, there were two cliques in my priest quorum. One clique consisted of the bishop’s kid, HP group leader’s kid, Stake presidents kid etc. Alll of these had access to the building via their dad’s key. The RS president’s boy also had a key, but was in the other clique. It came down that no one was to use the building for basketball if it wasn’t an official activity. This was unfortunately selectively applied, meaning the bishop’s son was never rousted out of the building, but everyone else was. Petty perhaps, but why have the heart ache.

    Also there is a huge concern over the wear and tear of the buildings. Open use leads to significant wear, doors being left open and thefts. Our church building was recently broken into by means of a door left open after a basketball game, and several thousand dollars of material were stolen. Arson and vandalism are also huge problems (see the fires in oregon last year, idaho this year, vandalism in texas etc).

    The church is self insured, meaning every dollar spent to repair or replace is a dollar not spent somewhere else. Self insurance means you maintain enough cash reserves to pay for any damage done. On the missionaries cars, the church posts a bond with the state to cover potential liability occuring from the use of cars registered to it. As far as I know all the church vehicles and buildings in the US are covered by such an arrangement. Perhaps there is some catastrophic insurance (such as most major homebuilders have, where unless the claim is in the millions, the “insured” pays out of pocket), but I am not aware of this

    Self

  51. Bryan Robert on April 27, 2005 at 12:12 pm

    Im sure that there was a good reason to do this. I have a hard time believing that it is just the Church being “stingy” as someone put it. What do we really know about the issue? Nothing. What if the Church has been being used for Private schools, as someone put it. What if they have had to pay multi-million dollar suits, because of kids with broken legs. How many Churches have been wrecked becuase they let some youth use the gym to play basketball, and alot of non member, or not so good member kids got out of control?

    The list could go on and on. We dont really know if the Church gets sued 1 time or 10,000 times a year.We dont know if 1 or 10,000 curches have been wrecked. We dont know what has been going on in the Churches around the World. Another thing to think about is that people dislike our Church alot more than these other ones that might let anyone just use their facilities. Mabye they are trying to make the target smaller for people that would love to try to hurt us, and get rich in the process.

  52. John Mansfield on April 27, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    Concerning agressive lawyer advertisements, as I recall it, it used to be against bar association rules to do any advertising much beyond a little box with the firm’s name. But twenty-five years back or so, those restrictions were found to be an illegal restraint on free speech. So the profession had its collective ability to exercise restraint in this area stripped away.

  53. JKS on April 27, 2005 at 1:16 pm

    I always assumed that the church building was used for church activities….only. I didn’t realize people really used it for other things except weddings or something.

    I don’t know anything about institute. Who gets to go to institute? Can I go? I thought it was maybe for college kids, and since I went to BYU of course they didn’t have it.

  54. Mark Martin on April 27, 2005 at 1:22 pm

    JKS,
    The primary target group for Institute of Religion is ages 18-30, whether single or married. In some areas, the CES Director will also organize institute classes for other groups of interested adults. I know that my sister (mom of 7) in Cincinnati likes to attend a class targeted for the moms on a weekday.

  55. Julie in Austin on April 27, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    Re Elisabeth’s #30: I think Nate said what is my sense: sue that UU church and you’ll be lucky to cover your costs. Not so for the LDS. Also, I’m trying to figure out a delicate way to say this, but most of the other churches that I have been in look at if the cub scout activity of the week for each of the last 100 weeks was swinging around metal chairs. An eighth of the wear and tear on an LDS building would have resulted in a complete renovation. I can understand that every group in and out will cause wear and tear that must eventually be paid for.

    DavidH–Sorry that I don’t have any more info for you, but I was under the impression that it was Church-wide. Anyone clarify for us?

    GL wrote, “Let’s be a bit more objective here concerning the possibility that church members were unfortunately “abusing”, “mooching” or “free-riding” (albeit probably unintentionally) the use of what should be a sacred building.”

    Well, it kind of depends on your expectations. Most other churches allow their buildings to be used for this sort of thing (sometimes charging a small fee, as the UU church does to our group), and so it is not unreasonable that a Saint might think it reasonable to ask about using an LDS building. A decision has to be made as to whether groups can use the church for non-official activities or not. (Another example: I was in a ward where a group of women would meet at 7am to do an exercise video while the toddlers ran underfoot in the cultural hall. Is this mooching?)

    Mark Martin, it is nice of you to see a need and try to fill it. But in all honesty, unless it were you and your wife (if you have one) offering the care together, I probably wouldn’t do it. I am not accusing you of anything, but I personally know people who I believe to be innocent who have been falsely accused of child abuse and I would not allow my husband to take the risk by caring for someone else’s children unless I were around. Sad but true commentary on the current state of affairs. If you are not married, or your wife is busy, or whatever, I’d probably offer to help her find someone else to watch the kids.

    JKS–Building use has been at the discretion of local leaders. For example, the homeschoolers asked to use one of the Austin buildings for a whole-family potluck and were told no, but were able to use another buildign one morning per month for a coop. That building was also used by a piano techer who held recitals in the chapel (which I think was crossing the line because (1) it was the chapel and (2) she was making money from it, but that’s just my opinion).

  56. Mark Martin on April 27, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks, Julie (#55). I feared that may be the case. So basically, someone in RS is going to need to miss out on Enrichment in order to care for children, even if the care is provided at a home.

  57. JKS on April 27, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    Another thing to consider is that if the activity is at church, it is considered as church sanctioned….and there needs to be adequate supervision. My husband has to go and babysit youth basketball games. We can’t just let whoever wants to come and hang out and do inappropriate things and/or mess up the building.

  58. Kelly Knight on April 27, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    Just a couple of thoughts:

    1. Anytime there is an activity, regardless the type, in a Church building, a representative of the priesthood is to be present. Having a priesthood holder at the building during the week-day for a school would be difficult at best.
    2. The rules are not new. About 20 years ago, my wife and I attended a ward in Provo. At that time, Jazzercize was just getting big, and one of the sisters in the stake offered to teach a class 2 or 3 times a week at the building. We were told in no uncertain terms that we were to cease the practice. Why? Apparently, a number of the local businesses that held Jazzercize classes felt as though their business was being infringed upon by a free class being offered in the neighborhood.
    3. A member in our stake who is on the sheriff’s department sponsored a Monday night basketball workout at the local building. He was asked to stop for two reasons. One was that the buildings, under no circumstance, are to be used on Monday nights for any kind of activity. Second, the activity was not church oriented or sponsored.

    Church buildings are paid for with sacred tithing funds. The Church is keenly interested in maintaining them in the utmost of repair and using them for activities that are Church related. There have been many times, however, when buildings have been opened in the event of emergency, such as the 400,000 acre fires in Arizona a couple of years ago.

    Just a side note, our ward youth wanted to do a fund raiser, and anticipated using the church parking lot. They were unable to do so because any appearance of fund raising could jeopardize the tax status of the Church.

    When I was a young single adult (21+ years ago), we would go as a group to Regional Young Adult dances. There was always a $2 cover charge, a “donation” at the door. One time our bishop, a bit of a rogue, commented to us that there was to be no “donations” at the door because of tax liabilities, that the dances were to be funded from stake or regional funds. So, one night a rather large group of us went to a dance. When we got to the door, with the “donation” collector sitting there, we just walked right passed him, and into the dance. He was furious and came chasing after us. We explained the situation, told him we would not be paying, and proceeded to dance the night away.

    These rules are all not new. But we forget them from time to time and simply have to be reminded of them.

  59. Kim Bell on April 28, 2005 at 12:05 am

    I am just thinking maybe this was a God inspired and dictated decision………We all know that the goverment schools are going to heck and you know the rest and are not likely morally to get any better in the future……..This forces all homeschoolers to “think out side the box:” to find other alternatives for meeting places………Could be leading to setting up Community based home schooling “community centers” and meeting halls……….Just one short step away from parent lead LDS schools cropping up all over the place ………Then watch the leadship of the church say this was the plan and it was inspired……….Something to think about Uh!!!

  60. Sheri Lynn on April 28, 2005 at 10:18 am

    The Lutherans have a wonderful parochial system. Many of their churches share a lot with their schools, and both facilities are used by both church and school as needed. It is a missionary tool to them, as they permit children not of their faith to enroll, requiring of them the same study of the catechism that their members use, though they do generally give members a tuition discount. They do fundraising on site and appear to have no problems doing so; they frequently have dinners and other events which cost money to attend. I do not know why they can do things like that and we cannot. Do we still fear the government swooping in to remove us from our meetinghouses by force if homeschoolers use the chapel? I must misunderstand the situation. I do not understand why we do not have our own parochial school system.

    I love it when my Mormon kid takes second place in the statewide Lutheran school religion bee–100% correct, only a few seconds behind the winner who is four grades ahead of her. But she is intensively studying the Bible in a way Mormons do not, and her knowledge really shows in Sunday School. Mormon kids could benefit from religion-centered schooling, and it would be nice if that schooling was based on the fullness of the Gospel and not just the parts the Lutherans have to work with.

  61. Darrell Swain on April 29, 2005 at 9:24 am

    With the abandonment of religion, education has lost its safe anchorage, is drifting into the unknown currents of experimentalism, and is in danger of striking the shoals and banks of infidelity. And as to the last point, I do not hesitate in saying, that I would rather see my child exposed to the dangers of an infectious disease and trust to medical treatment, or better still, to the faith within me and to the ordinances of the Gospel, to rescue it from fatal consequences, than to have it exposed to the influence of an infidel teacher. Karl Maeser.

  62. Sheri Lynn on April 29, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    I also note that the Boy Scouts use our Church facilities for educational, recreational, and fund raising purposes, so it’s even harder to understand why a homeschooling group could not.

  63. annegb on April 29, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    Hey, Sheri Lynn, where you been?

  64. Soyde River on April 29, 2005 at 11:39 pm

    I think the reasons for some of these policies are that it is easier to make a “bright line” rule, than it is to wade into the fuzzy area of trying to determine what is right on a case by case basis. If one family homeschooling can use the building, then what about two families homeschooling together? What about 10 families homeschooling together, and paying “dues/donations”? It all gets very messy, and creates huge problems, in addition to the legal liabilities mentioned earlier.

    As I am sure you are well aware, there are communities which are inimical to the Church, and where a jury might well decide on multi-million dollar awards on the basis that the Church has deep pockets (ask any corporate lawyer about this).

    By the way, the Church has hundreds of lawsuits on-going at any one time. Some frivolous, and some serious.

  65. Kelly Knight on May 1, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    Sherry,

    The difference between the charter or home-schooling program and the Boy Scouts is that the Boy Scout troups are sponsored and paid for by the Church, while the charter or home school group is not.

  66. Sheri Lynn on May 1, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    Anne, are you not getting my email?

    Kelly, I know you’re right–I just think it’s highly unfortunate and separates us from our Church in a crucial area. I really admire the Lutheran school system. They do an awesome job for less money than what the public schools cost, and the children are really benefiting. I’m sure that’s true of most other parochial schools. I wish we had one. That’s all.

  67. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 2, 2005 at 6:38 am

    BTW, in some chuches, the church is owned at the congregation level and all policie are set at the congregation level. That impacts decisions, as do the type of memberships the churches have (some social groups sue a great deal more often).

    Interestingly complex, nice post.