Colorado Springs: What happens to a city when religion trumps government

I used to live in that conservative conclave nestled at the foot of Pike’s Peak. Between death threats, dry skin and snowstorms in May, it was the longest year of my life. Yet I can report with 100 percent certainty that neo-cons, fundamentalist Christians and overall moral majority-types feel comfortable and at peace in their modern-day Jerusalem. The Springs is home to the now-infamous New Life Church, as well as the national headquarters of Focus on the Family, Young Life and almost 100 other right-wing Christian organizations. Dozens upon dozens of churches make their home there as well.

In the past 30 years, pilgrims have flocked to Colorado Springs from all over the world, determined to create a new Promised Land. They succeeded, too.

And now they are turning their holy experiment into a Third World country.

See, churches and religious organizations are tax-exempt. They don’t contribute to their community in the form of tax dollars and, as a result, Colorado Springs is failing, fast. This is an excellent example of a town with more churches than schools and what happens when local governments don’t, or can’t, collect enough taxes.

“More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won't pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.”

Combine this lack of law enforcement with an out-of-control homeless problem, and many residents are afraid to go outside after dark. A strong military presence in The Springs has led to high-profile crime sprees and now the angry, gun-toting GI Joes have fewer police officers keeping an eye on them. These stories do more to negatively affect tourism, which takes more money away from the town, than local officials care to admit.

Focus on the Family made news this weekend. They spent millions on a Super Bowl ad encouraging young women to forgo abortion because their fetus might one day grow up to win a Heisman Trophy.

Meanwhile, women in FoF’s hometown are in danger tonight as they walk home in a town that can’t afford to light their way or protect them with effective law enforcement.

Money well spent, guys.

Don’t worry about them, though. If I know my old neighbors in Colorado Springs, they’re not worried or concerned. They’re still hoping Jesus will save them.

Catherine Durkin Robinson is a handful, creating quite a scene over at Out in Left Field.

Conservatives like to talk of the need for more religion and less government in our communities. They long to live in a world where their brand of Christianity is represented on every street corner. They refer to taxes as if paying anything for streets and schools is an act worse than women in the workforce and homosexuality combined. Fundamentalists preach a gospel that combines the sweet mixture of Jesus, intolerance, salvation and a guaranteed tax-exempt status.

“It will save the world,” they say.

Sometimes you want to tell them to fly to the moon, right?

Now you can suggest a more fitting destination.

Tell them to move to Colorado Springs.

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