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Letter To The Editor – Jan. 22, 2014

Church Waiver Reduces Value Of Business

Dear Editor,
    A “church waiver,” supposedly, was the sole reason for creating Water Valley’s new beer ordinance, to accommodate someone who planned to open a restaurant here. The waiver creates a way for a beer-selling restaurant to be closer than 150 feet from a church. Well, that sounds fair enough.
    But it isn’t. First off, nothing in the waiver says it will be legal and binding on all future members of the church. So if six months or 10 years down the road the church decides it doesn’t like a restaurant selling beer across the street, it can revoke the waiver.
    Second, the waiver covers only the person who applies for the beer license. If the owner wants to sell the business, the potential buyer has to ask the church for a new waiver. Maybe she gets it, maybe she doesn’t. Such uncertainty makes for an unstable business climate and significantly reduces the value of the restaurant.
    Third, under the new beer ordinance, a person can open a restaurant selling hard liquor 101 feet from a church. But without a church waiver, the same restaurant would have to be 151 feet from the church to sell beer. Why, in the eyes of the mayor and aldermen, is beer so much more dangerous than hard liquor?
    The answer is, it’s smoke and mirrors. The state of Mississippi, which is not known as a hotbed of progressive liberal politics, has already addressed the issue of alcohol and churches. It sets the minimum distance from a church for alcohol sales at 100 feet. The 150-foot distance in Water Valley’s ordinance is something the Mayor and the Board and their attorney cooked up. If the church waiver were simply eliminated, state law would control.
    Thomas Jefferson knew what he was talking about when he wrote the Virginia Statue For Religious Freedom in 1777. In it, he condemned “legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others.”
Best regards,
Cliff Lawson

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