What Roosevelt has in abundance, however, is churches. By one unofficial count, 68 houses of worship have taken root in this small community, which is a bit over a mile in width and in length and has a population of about 16,000.
This trend has produced concern among some community, business and political leaders that the concentration of churches is impeding business. Public officials say the situation leaves them in a quandary, acknowledging the right of churches to open here but lamenting the loss of potential tax revenue.
“It’s like a forbidden subject, but I wish to God I could find a way to stop churches from coming into this community,” said Wilhelmina Funderburke, chairwoman of the Roosevelt Community Revitalization Group, a nonprofit coalition of local organizations.
Some clergy members rebut the critics, praising the churches as providing a net benefit and noting that a number of congregations meet in rented quarters whose owners do pay taxes.
“There are a lot of churches all over the place — I don’t see anything so unique about Roosevelt,” said Elder Joseph M. Jones, pastor of Newbirth Christian Interfaith Church. He said he was insulted by the notion that churches hurt the tax base. “Churches have always served as the basis for social cohesion” in the community, he said. “They ought to get rid of the bars, not the churches.”