Council Chambers were packed with the righteously indignant on two consecutive evenings last week. At issue was an appeal to thwart the plans of long-time businessmen Guy Meunier to convert his car wash into a small liquor store and his plans to serve beer along with his burgers in his restaurant.
Meunier followed procedure and the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) authorized a development permit, a situation that raised the ire of a daycare, neighbouring parents and members of the Morinville Christian Fellowship School.
Neighbourhood parents and the daycare expressed concerns about increased traffic from a liquor store and the potential of a child being hit by an impaired driver, a NIMBY but certainly noble and valid point of attack.
But for Pastor Brunelle, principal of the Christian school, and nearly 50 of his fellowship who came out over two nights to support the appeal, the bulk of the objection is an aversion to the Demon Liquor, at least its draw on the youth of this community. By his own admission, Brunelle intimated he’d fallen prey to the lure of the liquor a time or two in his own youth, errors he quickly rectified to the point of being able to speak against the ills of alcohol for the rest of us.
That on its own is worthy of praise, but at the heart of the matter, Brunelle and his churchmen (and women) are afraid that the proximity of a liquor store so close to the church’s youth group headquarters (located in the former Anglican church across the road from the Shell) will be too great a temptation for the 90 to 100 Morinville teens the church is trying to help overcome the troubles of life, something the church claims to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars doing in Morinville.
The hypocrisy of the group’s concern for the community is appalling and unbecoming of one who professes to follow the carpenter’s son. Guy Meunier has offered to work with the church to educate young people on the dangers of alcohol and alcoholism, a pretty remarkable and civic-minded offer. But Pastor Brunelle, Pastor Fraser and their followers prefer to sees the dregs of humanity wherever partakers of the barley gather and wants to push them away from their insular world and world view.
Senior Pastor Greg Fraser painted several scenarios of the dangers of a liquor store so close to the school and youth centre. The best had as its central theme an “alcohol emboldened 19-year-old” accosting a group of 12-year-old girls heading to the Shell for a slushie, so the teen could “pick up something else other than a bottle of vodka.”
What is most disturbing in the appeal is that apparently the pastor and his church have no problem with other demon liquor establishments within a few blocks of the school and youth group. Where was the pastors’ indignation when the former Fields store was given the green light to open a liquor store next to a music school? Where was their indignation when the Community Cultural Centre (which will have two bars) was built on the grounds of the Morinville Community High School? Is it not possible that a wedding or rock concert might occur on the same evening as a basketball game or school concert?
Pastor Brunelle asked both council and the appeal board if building a liquor establishment next to one of the town’s four Catholic schools would have been as easily permitted as it was next to his, implying a persecution against his church and school to such a level one would expect to find stigmata somewhere on his person.
There is an interesting double standard at play in this community. South Glenns residents are criticized for building close to an industrial park. Non-religious parents are chastised for not knowing that all the public schools in Morinville were religiously infused. But a religious school can open up in a commercial strip mall and then complain when a businessman tries to engage in a legal business venture that doesn’t fit well with their theological views or sense of moral standards.
And because a businessman dared to attempt to create employment and profit, some members of Brunelle’s delegation, instead of asking “What would Jesus do?” now boycott the Shell.
Jesus Christ overturned the money changers tables in the temple, but Mr. Meunier isn’t a money changer and Pastor Brunelle is most certainly not Jesus.
If Morinville can support five liquor stores and several bars, perhaps Pastor Brunelle and his flock can do as Christ did and minister among the people on the dangers of alcoholism instead of only popping up their heads when the situations pops up in their own backyard.