Personally, I think churches should collaborate as much as possible with local governing bodies to benefit their communities.
I have no problems with churches leasing their buildings and receiving revenue sources. It's not clear to me why the Burbank City Council voted down this particular cell tower proposal. In this case, it would appear that both the local church and the community will lose potential benefits.
I am aware that there is some ongoing concern about possible health dangers related to cellphone towers. These towers emit Radio Frequency Waves (RFW) that do not contain the same type of radiation as, for example, X-rays, which are known to have potential harmful effects on health. Exposure to RFW drops off quite quickly with distance, so if you are 200 feet or more away, your exposure level is very low.
Actually using a cellphone will expose you to more RFW radiation than being in proximity to a cellphone tower. Cellphones were originally developed for the Department of Defense and crossed over into the commercial sector in the early 1980s. At that time, the emerging cellphone companies pressured the FDA to allow cellphones to be marketed without any safety testing. To date, there is never been any systematic study of their safety by the FDA.
Scientific studies have not demonstrated significant health risks in cellphone use, but health researchers are quick to state that they don't know the effects of heavy, long-term use of cellphones. One study published by the Journal of American Medical Association (February 2011) demonstrated that cellphone use boosted brain activity in regions near the ear where the cellphone was used. Researchers issued a cautionary statement about chronic use, particularly by children whose brains are still developing.
Pastor Che Ahn
The decision to have a base station site co-located in a church should mostly be left up to the church owners. The reason cell operators desire church locations is the ability to hide the appearance of the base station equipment. It certainly seems that churches have an opportunity to obtain money by allowing this use of their buildings.
Any congregation considering such an agreement should very carefully examine the contractual agreement they are joining into. There are reports of some churches finding themselves limited in the future use of their own property after signing contracts with cellphone companies. As a nonreligious person I question the true nonprofit nature of some religious organizations. Those organizations that exist solely for the enrichment of their leaders should be taxed on their income like any other business. But churches need to make their own decisions about the contracts they make with cellphone businesses.
South Pasadena Atheist Meetup
There hasn't been much in the way of theological angst over this question in our Methodist churches. Our steeples host a number of tastefully installed cell towers, and the staffs rejoice to get great reception. A bigger question has been business-related, as churches moved up the learning curve on negotiating a good deal with hard-driving cellphone companies. We are better at that now.
Surely, however, the city council did not have theological problems with the cell tower project. According to the Burbank Leader, members are responding to neighbors' fears of health hazards and aesthetic intrusions. The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) says that there is not evidence at this time to suggest that living near a cell tower causes cancer. It sounds like more research would help the Council make a good decision.
Most churches use this kind of additional income for ministries that serve the community and the world, or they use it to maintain the facility, which also serves the community. Our facility, for example, is not only used by our congregation, but by a Korean congregation, eight AA and Al-Anon groups, ESL classes, and our preschool, which caters to working families across the Valley. I'm sure that the Little White Chapel has a similar situation, as most churches do. Good neighbors might consider that their support of such a project enables the church to help others.