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Oops:
From the News of the Weird:
In June, after the roof of the just-built Cedar Grove Methodist Church near Thorsby, Ala., collapsed (with no one inside), church officials revealed that they had never sought building permits, based on Pastor Jeff Carroll's assumption that "separation of church and state" meant that his church was none of the government's business. Carroll, whose day job is as a home builder, said volunteers designed and then built the church, but agreed to get a permit for the re-building.
Thanks to Jessica Gabel for the tip.
refugee (mail):
Pastor Carroll made two errors:

First of all, of course, he forgot that, despite freedom of the press, newspapers still have to run their presses in accordance with the same regulations any equivalently-sized industrial plant must follow, that the right to keep and bear doesn't permit you to keep a nuke without appropriate radiation and security safeguards, and that faith will not improve the load bearing capacity of a two-by-four.

More importantly, he forgot that his Church is his congregation, not the building they worship in.
8.14.2006 3:28am
Cornellian (mail):
Can't help but notice this took place in Alabama. Kinda wonder what Roy Moore would have thought of that argument had he still been on the bench.
8.14.2006 4:11am
Cornellian (mail):
I checked the source, which also has this hilarious item:

The tattoo-removal business is booming, according to a May Fox News report that highlights dissatisfaction with formerly trendy Chinese-language tats that were often either mistranslated as nonsense ("blood and guts" translated as "blood and intestines") or were actually jokes pulled on people too cool for their own good (such as Chinese words for "gullible white boy"). A removal service in Beverly Hills, Calif., said it takes off at least seven Asian tattoos a week. [Fox News, 5-9-06]
8.14.2006 4:14am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Its semi-common attempted tax dodge for whackjob Christians. If anyone knows Dr. Dino, the guy who runs the Creationist Museum. He was brought up on charges for the same thing

nsisting he is employed by God, a Florida evangelist who founded a creationist theme park faces tax-fraud charges.

Kent Hovind of Pensacola, known as "Dr. Dino," declared at a hearing July 17 he does not recognize the government's right to try him.

Hovind's Creation Science Evangelism ministry in Pensacola includes Dinosaur Adventure Land, a museum and a science center, dedicated to debunking evolution. He has offered $250,000 reward to anyone offering sufficient proof of evolution.

The evangelist says he's not a tax protester, asserting he has no income or property because everything belongs to God.



the rest of the article

or just type Kent Hovind into google news.
8.14.2006 5:10am
Master Shake:
I thought there was no thing as the "separation of church and state".
8.14.2006 5:24am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
"Separation of church and state" is a nonsensical phrase, since nothing can exist within the boundaries of the United States and be fully separate from is government.

Carroll could claim rights under the Free Exercise clause, if his branch of Methodism has a doctrinal plank stating the believer's autonomy with regard to initiating construction projects.
8.14.2006 5:35am
steve (mail):
"Carroll could claim rights under the Free Exercise clause, if his branch of Methodism has a doctrinal plank stating the believer's autonomy with regard to initiating construction projects."

Planks don't seem to be his strong suit.
8.14.2006 6:24am
NickM (mail) (www):
Separation of joist and beam, anyone?

Nick
8.14.2006 6:51am
Fub:
From the article:
Carroll, whose day job is as a home builder, said volunteers designed and then built the church, but agreed to get a permit for the re-building.
So how would a building permit keep the place from falling down? Are Alabama bureaucrats now issuing writs of prohibition against the law of gravity?

The roof collapsed because of deficient design or construction, or some other cause not noted in the article. It did not fail because it didn't have the right government paperwork. The Tacoma Narrows bridge had all the right paperwork. The leaning tower of Pisa still does.
8.14.2006 9:51am
Gary McGath (www):
Perhaps he also believed in separation of church and physics, i.e., that the building would miraculously stay up in spite of amateur construction work.
8.14.2006 10:02am
goesh:
A fine would be in order since the congregation uses services paid for by the government and taxes to access their church, namely roads. I presume if at a church supper some of the congregation got severe food poisoining, they would want a tax-subsidised ambulance to arrive on the scene as well.
8.14.2006 10:03am
Whatever:

So how would a building permit keep the place from falling down? Are Alabama bureaucrats now issuing writs of prohibition against the law of gravity?


I assume that you have never gotten a building permit... In order to get a permit, you present your plans to the building inspector and he verifys that they are in accordance with local building code (usually IBC or BOCA), then issues a permit... Then he (or she, though I've never met a female building inspector) comes around to inspect as you build to make sure that you are building what you planned and are building in accordance with code...

I actually live in one of the few towns left in New England that has never adopted a code, permitting system, zoning, or anything else like it, but almost every municipality in the US follows the same (general) procedure for permitting and inspection...
8.14.2006 10:04am
AppSocRes (mail):
Fub: Part of the necessary work for a building permit is usually a construction plan with an engineer's stamp. The goal is to prevent collapses like this, which used to occur frequently - often with significant maimings and loss of life. Unfortunately in my neck of the woods building codes have been hijacked by the trade unions in order to create monopoly control of the construction industry. I wouldn't be surprised if the same situation holds in Alabama.
8.14.2006 10:12am
Isaac (www):
Forget Free Exercise -- what about Establishment? From the State's point of view, wouldn't it be an unconstitutional diversion of State resources to the aid of the Church if building inspectors are paid with tax dollars to inspect Church plans?
8.14.2006 10:30am
Enoch:
That church was definitely not a case of Intelligent Design...
8.14.2006 10:36am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Enoch wins the award for best cheesy one-liner.
8.14.2006 10:45am
art guerrilla (mail):
fub -
you fubbed up: excepting *some* types of farm/agricultural buildings, almost all states and other building jurisdictions require *EVERY* bldg permit application *MUST* include engineer-approved trusses and overall structural design, including windload/hurricane measures which are mandatory...

*unless* someone is following really weird/faulty construction practices, an engineered building should not collapse, except under the most extreme or unlikely set of circumstances...

...or god really hates you

art guerrilla

eof
8.14.2006 11:43am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
I bet the pastor's GC business takes a big hit over this.
8.14.2006 12:11pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):

I actually live in one of the few towns left in New England that has never adopted a code, permitting system, zoning, or anything else like it,

And do your buildings fall down?
8.14.2006 12:28pm
Bruce:
Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's...
8.14.2006 12:40pm
therut:
Move the church to a rural area. No building codes. No UNION thugs. No liberal city officials trying to stop your building plans cause they can't make a buck off you. Leave the government controlled incorporated area ASAP. Look to the BIG DIG to see how effective UNION WORK, and GOV building codes save people.
8.14.2006 12:52pm
Enoch:
Dr. Lecter probably won't add this collapse to his collection, since there was nobody inside.
8.14.2006 1:09pm
Mahlon:
So we acknowledge that the government can have some role in the doings of a religion, i.e. government functions overrlap onto religious functions. The government can enter a church building or at least approves its design.

So why doesn't it go the other way? Why is a student barred from recognizing God in a Valedictorian speech? Why is private individual barred from free exercise in a government building? This overlap is barred.
8.14.2006 1:15pm
Fub:
Whatever wrote:
I actually live in one of the few towns left in New England that has never adopted a code, permitting system, zoning, or anything else like it,
Duncan Frissell responded:
And do your buildings fall down?
Thank you, Duncan, for getting my point.
8.14.2006 2:38pm
K Bennight (mail):
I was reared a Methodist, and I don't recall the preacher or any Sunday School teacher ever mentioning building permits.
8.14.2006 3:03pm
TM Lutas (mail) (www):
A no building permit regime is eminently viable but not the way these guys did it. A private regime would involve creating some sort of mark to be placed near the entrance(s) certifying building code compliance (there are two competing national codes and states, counties, and municipalities modify from there). If you're socialized to look for the mark and there is no mark, you know what's going on and can take the reasonable course of action to not go into a likely unsafe building. Today, with government code compliance dominating building construction in the US, nobody puts up a mark and thus people are not socialized to check because they have been assured that government is on the job.

That building should never have been able to open its doors as it was functionally purveying a fraud, that it was compliant with some sort of reasonable engineering code.
8.14.2006 3:46pm
Aultimer:

therut: Move the church to a rural area. No building codes. No UNION thugs. No liberal city officials trying to stop your building plans cause they can't make a buck off you.

So liberal officials caused the collapse because the pastor failed to get the building and plans inspected? That's a cool superpower to have, but I think the bad engineering would have been just as bad in a rural setting.
8.14.2006 3:57pm
non_Lawyer:
I am interested to see responses to Mahlon's 12:15 pm question. I think it is a valid question/observation.
8.14.2006 4:51pm
speedwell (mail):
I am not interested in seeing responses to Mahlon's 12:15 pm question. I think it is a transparent attempt to hijack the discussion.
8.14.2006 5:13pm
DustyR (mail) (www):
Mahlon, your comparative is not at all serious and is obvious by the way you contort your argument with the phrase "doings of a religion" and "religious functions" not use "religious faith" or some such.

Hammering nails is not a religious function, for one. Neither is using the proper structural members, setting masonry block, pouring concrete, nor installing electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC. And that is true regardless of whether the Pastor blesses every nail and pipe or that they all pray that everything they build functions as intended.

And that is the separation difference -- the government is imposing the building requirements and the religion is imposing the religious requirements. And as far as I know, no municipal code regulates speech at a construction site, so the members can sing to their heart's content while they build their church.

And since people can sometimes get the wrong idea about building codes being thuggery, hijacking or liberal conspiracies, let me just note that building codes, municipal and private organizational, have essentially two primary characteristics -- standardization of what works properly to achieve intended use and secondarily standards for maintaining health and safety satisfactory to the community.

To a great extent these two become intertwined but they are separate, and often municipal code is set to meet the minimum necessary of the organizational code to meet health and safety standards and refer to those codes as the basis for requirements. Societal codes are such as those produced by American Concrete Institute (ACI), American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM), ad 'practically' infinitum, though there are several government groups, like the EPA, USCOE but even these rely to a great extent on societal research and development of what is often referred to as 'good construction practice' or 'standard practice in the community'. (And all this had its birth in Hammurabi's code of successful construction.)

Lots of people gripe about the permitting process. As an engineer, I often do. There are things about it that can be annoying, arduous, overly prescriptive or preferential. But in essence, the government is doing citizens a favor in taking on the responsibility/authority of collating the minimum requirements for development of property.

The pastor found that out the hard way and I am sure the parishioners emphasized it when they realized there was going to be an unanticipated escalation in the construction cost.
8.14.2006 5:18pm
Anon1ms (mail):
Whatever ~ I would be very interested to know what town in New England does not require building permits or plan reviews and inspections.

Usually when municipalities do not enact such codes, they come under the county ordinances.

How does the owners of these unregulated structures acquire insurance on them?
8.14.2006 5:24pm
Peter Wimsey:
Whatever ~ I would be very interested to know what town in New England does not require building permits or plan reviews and inspections.

Usually when municipalities do not enact such codes, they come under the county ordinances.



In my state, they are set as a matter of state law. Zoning is optional by county and municipality, but not the building code.
8.14.2006 6:54pm
markm (mail):
This is how building permits and inspections are supposed to work: "In order to get a permit, you present your plans to the building inspector and he verifys that they are in accordance with local building code (usually IBC or BOCA), then issues a permit... Then he (or she, though I've never met a female building inspector) comes around to inspect as you build to make sure that you are building what you planned and are building in accordance with code..."

How they actually work around here: You bring the plans down to the permit office and pay several thousand dollars in permit fees for a typical new house project (these fees support the permit/inspection office). The inspector will sign off darn near anything done by his union buddies, including a new house friends of mine purchased where none of the pipe joints had been tightened. When the water was turned on, it was spraying out everywhere. Of course, being a government worker the inspector is not liable for not doing the job he was paid thousands to do... For everyone else he nitpicks and makes you re-do sound work, greatly increasing building costs (although not nearly as much as the extensive repairs after that inspected-on-paper only water disaster must have run).

Not all building inspectors are like this. Some are quite good, and go out of their way to explain to a do-it-your-selfer what's required to do sound work and pass the inspection. However, even when the codes are fairly and knowledgeably applied, they still have the effect of holding back advances in materials and building methods, especially for homes and other projects too small to afford hiring a structural engineer to certify that the building will stand up.

To expand on TM Lutas's post, we'd be far better off with a private inspection system. When you contract with a builder, you agree on the code to be used and the private inspection agency that will be hired to enforce it. I'd strongly suggest also running this selection past your intended insurance agent to see if the insurance companies consider this code and inspector to be adequate. The inspectors are motivated to do a good job, both to protect their reputation and because they do not have immunity to lawsuits over leaky pipes and collapsing roofs. They are also motivated to work with the designer and builder to head off problems in advance, rather than just rejecting plans or work after it is finished, because builders will prefer inspectors that help them stay on schedule and in budget. If you want to use newly developed materials or methods, you look for a code or inspector that does cover them, and a way of reassuring the insurance company about it's soundness, which might be difficult but (assuming the engineering data exists) is a whole lot quicker and easier than pushing a code change through a city or county council.

Of course, this does leave the possibility of someone building for themselves deciding to skip the inspection and save the fees. It happens with the present system, too - why deal with that crooked inspector if you can avoid it? It can get difficult to insure or sell an uninspected structure, but maybe that doesn't matter to you. This is nothing more or less than an issue of personal responsibility - if you're going to live in it, you're going to suffer the consequences of bad work. If it's going to be open to the public, then you are legally liable for the safety, as you are under the present scheme - even though you were not allowed to choose who was going to be inspecting those rafters...
8.14.2006 7:09pm
Noah:

I was reared a Methodist, and I don't recall the preacher or any Sunday School teacher ever mentioning building permits.

There are no biblical building permits because God himself was the architect: Noah's Ark, the Tabernacle, etc.

In the words of the great Bill Cosby, "Right...what's a cubit?"

So the question is whether this pastor's church was designed by the heavenly Great Architect. Maybe it isn't the pastor's fault....
8.14.2006 7:25pm
Waldensian (mail):
This is not the first time that God has smacked down a church (or several) to express His displeasure. I just thank God that Pat Robertson understands what signs like this mean.

Pity that Pastor Carroll has seen the evidence but hasn't gotten the message. But he will. As Pat would say, "Possibly with a meteor."
8.15.2006 1:46am
douglas (mail):

"Forget Free Exercise -- what about Establishment? From the State's point of view, wouldn't it be an unconstitutional diversion of State resources to the aid of the Church if building inspectors are paid with tax dollars to inspect Church plans?"

No, because enforcement of building codes isn't a favor to the church, it's a protection of the citizens of the state who will enter or live near the church building.

Ahhh, the building department- it's truly a love/hate relationship for us who deal with them regularly. In L.A., it's the planning department and it's affiliated bureacracies and community groups that are the real headache. Of course, the CYA attitude is a problem too- you should've seen the spike in requirements for soils and geology reports after last winter's landslides all over town...
8.15.2006 2:39am
Whatever:

Whatever ~ I would be very interested to know what town in New England does not require building permits or plan reviews and inspections.
Usually when municipalities do not enact such codes, they come under the county ordinances.
In my state, they are set as a matter of state law. Zoning is optional by county and municipality, but not the building code.


Well, for one, Waterville, VT, also Belvedere, and I'm quite certain that some towns in the Northeast Kingdom also are without codes... We have no county government except a sheriff's department and the state is not in the building code/permitting buisness... The state does issue a permit for changes to your septic system or changes to your house that would necessitate changes to septic, ie. addition of bedrooms... But they don't look at your building plans, just total number of bedrooms and septic system/leach field capacity....

I find it funny that so many libertarian/conservatives are so down on Vermont when it is perhaps the least regulated state I have ever lived in (and I have lived in many) with the most direct and autonomous local government...
8.15.2006 8:46am
Whatever:
If you google "no building code" you will find evidence that there are many areas of the country with no code... Some have permitting for lot setbacks, some for electrical only, but there are several without any...

My town doesn't even have setback requirements... In fact my property line is defined as running to the eaves of the building next door, and the eaves of the south and east sides of one of my barns are a property line...
8.15.2006 9:02am
DustyR (mail) (www):
Whatever, Vermont does have building codes comprised of architectural standards, electric, plumbing, fire safety, etc. They are codified at the state level; Vermmont requires comformance to the BOCA code, for instance. Various towns do not need to adopt a building code, the state adopted it for them. In general, towns can amend those requirements making them more restrictive, but cannot relax them.

Building permits may or may not be a neccesary from the local municipality, and even in those cases may only apply to Town and Land use plan (aka zoning) as developed by a Planning Commission. Waterville has those, BTW, general though it is. But an owner does have to get permits for building/development at various higher levels of government. That does include building permits for PUBLIC buildings, which, according to the State of Vermont, basically includes everything except single family, owner occupied, residential homes (with one additional rental unit max, it appears) and most agricultural buildings.

The case of the church that Orin posted on would have required a building permit if built in Waterville, though the owner would probably just have to go to Barre to get it.

Just because the process of application, approval and permitting is easy or isn't done by the local government, doesn't mean it doesn't exist or isn't required.
8.15.2006 12:35pm
Whatever:
You are right in a sense that I did not get into... The state does have a building code in place for public, commercial, and insustrial buildings... Also for buildings to be used as rental properties... Residential construction is completely up to the towns...

Waterville does not have a town plan or zoning of any kind, though we have recently formed a planning commission with the goal of eventually developing a town plan...

I was only referring to single-family residential construction as that is all that I have ever had experience with, and, for what it's worth, is pretty much all that happens in a town of 600 people with no real local economy save agriculture...

So in short, yes, there is a state building code that applies to public buildings and rental units, but not to single-family residential construction....
8.15.2006 2:59pm
non_Lawyer:
Honest, legitimate question for you legal types:

Why do I need to get a permit from the guv'mint to build a tool shed on my own property (the planned shed is to be a little larger than ten feet by ten feet)? Isn't it my property? Why can't I just build the dang shed without permission from the Nanny State? (I'm serious -- I just don't get it.)
8.16.2006 4:06pm
douglas (mail):
I'm also not a lawyer, but since I get permits every week, I can give you a few reasons the building department would tell you why:
-Fire spread hazard. If you build your shed between your house and your neighbors, and it reduces the space between buildings to a few feet, the risk of a fire on your property spreading to your neighbor is one reason.
-Depending on your local geology and topography, you could cause problems for adjacent buildings by improperly setting foundations in the soil, setting foundations too close to a slope which could be destabilized, altering drainage patterns which could create slide or flood hazards...
-I don't know where you are, but if you were in tornado or hurricane areas, having structures held together to a certain standard can reduce projectile damage to your and your neighbors property.
For a tool shed, that's about it off the top of my head. If you really want to know, ask (in a friendly way) your plan checker or building department official- they should be happy to discuss it with you. One thing the L.A. buidling department does well, is help the citizens who come in navigate the system, as best they can. The planning department, not so much.
8.17.2006 6:54am