Our View: Doing God’s work requires a little paperwork

In this day and time even going door-to-door in the name of the Lord may be a dangerous and unwelcome proposition, even if it is within the boundaries of the local laws and ordinances. This age-old tradition, particularly among religious organizations, has provided evangelists, civic organizations, politicians, charitable groups, schools and, let’s not leave out those traveling vendors of goods, or better known as peddlers, the opportunity to reach those residents possibly receptive to what is being offered. There are those of us who can well remember the day when the Kirby vacuum salesman would knock at the door offering to demonstrate just how dirty our floors were and then, somehow, convince us of shelling out an extraordinarily large amount of money to own our very own Kirby vacuum cleaner. Not as much of that type of selling goes on today, mainly because of local laws that restrict such activity, not to mention that most people simply don’t want to be bothered by the annoyance of strangers knocking at their front door. And, because of the people’s growing fear of anyone approaching their home may be doing so with ill intent, such tactics are highly unwelcome and, in some cases, dangerous especially if it is done after dark. Approaching someone’s home unannounced and at night could be a recipe for dangerous consequences. Nevertheless, religious organizations, particularly the Jehovah Witnesses, aren’t being deterred by these obstacles or fears, and in fact, challenging their right to door-to-door solicitation in court. What is at issue involves a municipal ordinance in White Hall, a city of just over 5,500 residents in Jefferson County, that requires would-be door-to-door distributors of material “to pay $50 a person to cover the costs of a pre-distribution investigation.” Now then, The Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming such an ordinance is “a great burden for any program.” Bringing this situation closer to home, West Memphis, the county’s largest municipality, does have a nuisance ordinance on the books that prohibits door-to-door solicitation with the exception of charitable organizations, which includes churches. The ordinance does require charitable organizations designated by the mayor and city council to purchase a city privilege license, which we guess could also be argued by religious organizations. This type of activity doesn’t seem to be a major issue in West Memphis or Marion, and we know of no such instance where there has been a serious problem requiring law enforcement. But, with that said, and with the fear many residents now have regarding strangers knocking at doors there is an element of danger. We would think in today’s day and time that even these evangelists could approach their potential flock in a different and more effective way. This is just a sound suggestion and precautionary advice based on people’s skepticism and the growing concerns over themselves and their property.

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