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Debating sacred space in the city : religion and taxation in interwar Victoria and Vancouver Cunningham, Kara Lynn

Abstract

Scholars have sorely neglected the subject of religion in British Columbia during the interwar years. This thesis will address this gap through a study of the relationship between Protestantism and society in the province's major urban centers, Vancouver and Victoria. I will approach the issue through a new window into the role of churches in British Columbia - the church taxation debates of the 1920's. This work begins with a review of the literature that sets the historical context of the church tax issue and reveals gaps in our knowledge of the role of religion in British Columbia. Primary source material is derived largely from newspapers, magazines, and archival material including private correspondences, City Council documents, pamphlets, and booklets. The church taxation issue illustrates the agenda of British Columbia's urban churches in a rapidly changing and secularizing society. In order to remain relevant, they were forced to consider their purpose and persuade society to agree. Exemptionists employed different strategies to convince the public of their indispensability. In Victoria, churches clung to tradition, while in Vancouver churches responded by redefining the relationship between church and state. Victoria's churches wanted the role of churches to remain unchanged while Vancouver churches sought to harmonize the churches' agenda with that of the state. In both cities, the exemptionists won their cases. However, their victories did not permanently define or secure the future role of churches.

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