Over the weekend, the ABC revealed that the leadership of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney will vote on a formal policy of prohibiting the use of properties it owns for purposes it disagrees with.
Bishop Michael Stead was quoted as stating that, “The essence of the policy is that church property should not be used for purposes which are contrary to the doctrine of the church.”
In effect, the diocese is seeking to restrict access to its properties and landholdings by businesses or organisations that “facilitate, or generate incomes from, activities which are inconsistent with the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the Diocese”.
According to the ABC, three of the main losers of such a policy are anything pertaining to same-sex marriage, yoga classes that are derived from Buddhism, and Aboriginal smoking ceremonies.
The proposal, if passed by the diocese, would reportedly only apply to “predominant” uses.
However, it is unclear exactly what the definition of predominant use would be, or how that would be determined – what uses the most amount of floor space, generates the most revenue, attracts the most publicity or some other measure.
In theory, such bans could be used to deny a multitude of businesses access to properties owned by the diocese, whether that be directly renting those premises or even simply using them, depending on how such bans are implemented and interpreted on a case-by-case basis.
For example, adult shops, charity stores operated by other religions or denominations, psychics and spiritual healers, gay bookstores, Halal butchers, legal or financial services firms servicing or specialising in same-sex couples, and divorce lawyers.
The diocese was approached to elaborate on the proposal and how it would likely work in practice but did not respond by the time of publishing.
The contentious nature of the issue also saw major property giants shy away from addressing questions about whether the church’s move could affect the value of market rents on commercial properties, with both Knight Frank and CBRE declined to comment.