published Friday, December 30th, 2011

A history of violence

Pastor Tim Reid says his Mosaic Church on Market Street serves a mission of outreach to young people. City attorneys nevertheless will ask a Circuit Court judge this morning to declare the church a public nuisance and to allow the city to shut it down. The court should find ample reason to approve the city's petition.

The building at 412 Market Street that houses the Mosaic Church seamlessly includes Club Fathom, which exits at the rear onto Cherry Street and which became, on Christmas Eve, the site of gunplay that wounded nine people as a crowd of around 400 young people left a concert at the club.

That gang-related shooting may be unique in scale, yet it is just one more incidence of a history of violence that, since 2006, includes a chain of misdemeanor and felony assaults -- some involving guns and knives -- related to activities and gatherings at the church and club of large numbers of young people. Between 2006 and 2009, for example, activities at the club and subsequent gatherings of its patrons near its premises generated 344 police calls.

A crackdown by the city in 2009 helped dampen the rate of incidents, but it hasn't stopped them entirely. Assaults, drunkenness and disorders continued to be reported in 2010 and 2011.

Light security and popular music events, including many by secular groups that simply rent the church's space and charge admission, have attracted a diverse mix of teenagers and young adults from all parts of the community. Some of the events apparently have little or no connection with the mission that Reid claims to pursue.

The promotional flier for the Christmas Eve concert, for example, displayed a busty woman in lingerie and advertised a "Smash or Pass" evening of music that included sexual references and profanity. The cover charge increased from $5 to $15 as the evening progressed. Advertising for the planned New Year's party this weekend features several deejays and noted, "BYOB: Other refreshments available." Reid said the reference was not to "bring your own bottle," but to "bring your own Bible."

That hardly seems likely. Rather, it's on par with Reid's lame excuse that offenses at the club that run counter to his professed mission are often beyond his "control." Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, eyeing the city's petition to shut down the club, aptly responded that there would be "a lot of disappointed people down there gripping their liquid Bibles." He reasonably questioned why the church and club should not closed if Reid himself claimed events there were out of his control.

In fact, Reid fluidly claims that he allows secular music groups to play in order to introduce people to the Mosaic Church. He also admits that his non-profit charter does now not claim a religious mission because bad publicity surrounding Club Fathom caused a loss of grants when it was categorized as a religious organization.

There is, and long has been, a need for safe and healthy venues that provide group entertainment options for young people. By its record, the Mosaic Church and its nightclub facility has failed to attain that standing. For the health and safety of young people, it should be closed.

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