Could Legislation End Church Potlucks?

punch and cookiesStates are imposing professional licensing in more and more areas of our daily lives; restricting good intentions, individual entrepreneurship, and now threatening an essential part of church functions — food.

Awaiting vote in the Senate is House Bill 174, legislation to rewrite Pennsylvania’s eating and drinking safety code, this bill has huge implications for churches across the state. If passed as written, churches may be obligated to obtain licenses, updated kitchen equipment, meet seating capacity requirements, and pass inspections just to serve food at church events.

Part of the bill’s purpose is to provide funding for organic foods, maple products, food employee certification, and farmers’ markets, but the ambiguous language of the bill means churches might be faced with fines.

Religious organizations may be exempted from the license, but not the inspections (and fees), if they have a “sales and use tax license or exemption certificate from the Department of Revenue.” This legislation is yet another example of an overreaching government. Churches clearly are not retail food establishments and pose no more risk than a family reunion picnic.