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John Ruch Posted by on February 25, 2017.

Mormon temple: Don’t rename our street for Mercedes-Benz

A holy temple with a luxury carmaker’s brand name on its letterhead? That could happen if Mercedes-Benz USA renames a Sandy Springs street for itself to celebrate its new corporate headquarters—while also forcing a new address on its neighbor, the Atlanta Georgia Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Atlanta Georgia Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 6450 Barfield Road in Sandy Springs. (Google Earth)

The Mormon church will oppose the renaming of Barfield Road to Mercedes-Benz Drive, which goes before the City Council on March 7, according to metro Atlanta church spokesperson Bill Maycock. He called for a separation of church and brand.

“The Mercedes-Benz brand is known for prestige and luxury and class status and all that sort of thing,” Maycock said. “In the Atlanta Georgia Temple of the church, we don’t do any of that…It’s not what the Atlanta Temple is. It’s not what the Atlanta Temple teaches its members.”

MBUSA met with church leaders, but is driving ahead, according to company spokesperson Donna Boland.

“We don’t feel that the road renaming has an adverse impact or implication on church beliefs, but understand if the church feels it must voice its disagreement to the city,” Boland wrote in an email. “We are focused on being a valued member of the Sandy Springs community and hopefully that will be a more important factor than what this particular road is called.”

The road is currently called Barfield in honor of an old farming family, several members of whom also opposed the renaming idea when it was announced in late 2015. The proposal went quiet for over a year due to the controversy, but is back now that construction on the new headquarters at Abernathy and Barfield roads is underway.

MBUSA, which is relocating to Sandy Springs from New Jersey, said it has a 40-year “tradition” of naming streets around its facilities for the company. German-based Mercedes-Benz is known for using its name in branding, including recently purchasing the naming rights of Atlanta’s new football and soccer stadium.

The new Mercedes-Benz USA corporate headquarters under construction at Abernathy and Barfield roads in Sandy Springs. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

While the Barfield Road renaming has yet to gain City Council approval, the city already agreed to paid costs associated with the renaming as part of a $3 million incentive and improvements package.

The renaming targets the section of Barfield between Abernathy and Mount Vernon Highway. About a third-of-a-mile long, that section includes some office buildings, townhomes and the Latter-day Saints’ complex.

The LDS complex is right next door to MBUSA’s headquarters site. It includes the Atlanta Georgia Temple at 6450 Barfield Road and a meetinghouse, or church, fronting on Glenridge Drive on the property’s western end. In the LDS church, a meetinghouse is used for typical worship and church activities, and is open to anyone. A temple, however, is the world’s holiest site in LDS belief, open to only certain members or for certain ceremonies, such as weddings or baptisms.

The Atlanta Georgia Temple opened in 1983, predating the city’s existence by more than two decades.

Maycock said that the LDS church opposes the street renaming on a variety of grounds, including the expense of changing documents and questions of whether it squares with city code. But the bottom line is a corporate brand name showing up on any temple document, from letterhead to wedding invitations.

“I think it’s mostly the concept of being forced to use the Mercedes-Benz brand,” Maycock said. “The teachings of the church and the practices of the church [are] a non-materialistic view of life as taught by Jesus and the New Testament…[and a view of] equality, that we are all equal as God’s children.”

The opposition is currently coming just from the church’s Sandy Springs location, but it is possible the situation will attract the interest of the mother church in Salt Lake City, Utah, Maycock said. Officials there did not have immediate comment.

Maycock said the church sent a letter to MBUSA about a year ago declaring its opposition. He and Boland agree that MBUSA looked at alternatives. Boland said MBUSA put the renaming on hold during the consideration period.

“Unfortunately, no alternative has proved to be viable, and so we have requested that the city move forward with its commitment to MBUSA to rename a portion of the road,” she said.

However, Boland could not immediately say what alternatives were considered or why they weren’t deemed viable. Maycock said alternatives the church suggested included putting the company name on a private road MBUSA is building across its property, or giving the headquarters building an artificial “Mercedes-Benz Drive” name that could be used along with the regular street address.

Maycock said the church will send a formal letter of opposition to the City Council.

“A rancher is entitled to brand his own cattle,” he said, “but not to brand the cattle of his neighbor.”

36 Responses to Mormon temple: Don’t rename our street for Mercedes-Benz

  1. Bruce Larson

    February 25, 2017 at 9:23 am

    They don’t pay taxes… They can shut up and be thankful.

    • Derrick Weiller

      February 25, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      That’s the bottom line, Bruce.
      Let them pay taxes if they want a “say” in civic matters.

    • K. Virgil

      February 25, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      Don’t you think thats a little narrow-minded? There are lots of organizations that don’t pay taxes but do invest time, labor, and money into they’re community.

    • Tom

      February 26, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      You think Mercedes is paying taxes?

    • Tom

      February 27, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      The taxpayers who attend that temple who live in Sandy springs are voters as well. And as citizens of the city of Sandy Springs, their voices should be considered.

      City officials have to consider the political costs in their decision as well if they are wise.

      Likewise, there are a good number of home owners who are not temple attendees who have a voice that should be heard as well.

      There is a meeting planned for March 7 at Sandy Springs City Hall at 6:00 PM. All voices for and against are welcome to come, participate and be heard.

    • alexander

      February 28, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      “shut up and be thankful”… Being thankful is a wonderful aspect of religion…as for telling them to shut up,..Hmmm, THAT is something ENTIRELY different…..

    • Terrence Smith Sr.

      March 1, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      As individuals they all pay all kinds of taxes. Welcome to America.

  2. C

    February 25, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    Nor will mercedes when you factor in the tax incentives.

  3. Todd

    February 25, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Bruce Larson, you are either a leftist opposed to religion, a radical libertarian/capitalist opposed to anything that gets in the way of corporate interests, or a troll.

    Either way, do you demand that all tax-exempt nonprofit organizations “shut up” and accept whatever is imposed on them? Would you demand the same of your favorite nonprofit, whether it be Planned Parenthood, the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, or industry “councils” and “committees” formed to promote the interests of their parent companies?

  4. A Friend

    February 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Thinking that non-profit entities don’t pay taxes is incorrect. Members of the faith participate in many things that contribute to tax base and community… everything from eating at local restaurants when attending the temple… to purchasing of goods and services in and from the community. While there may be certain items that they don’t pay (property taxes being the one that you most likely are thinking of…), the true benefits to a community from non-profits are truly great.

    • Tyler

      February 27, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      So right, the church doesn’t pay taxes, its members, who live in the community do. The citizens are welcome to voice their opinions, the tax-exempt corporation of the LDS church is much less welcome. This is about image for a church which only lets members who donate 10 percent of their income into that temple they are worried about being on the “wrong” street because it sounds like money. Ironic.

      • Paul

        March 1, 2017 at 2:54 pm

        See my reply to you under the comment from “And then they wonder why..”: The concept of “tithing” was described in the Old Testament.

        The issue that the church has was stated in the article: “But the bottom line is a corporate brand name showing up on any temple (church) document, from letterhead to wedding invitations.”

        A simple example of a real-world situation: Suppose you had a business for twenty years in the same location. Now, one of your competitors wants to move onto the same street and rename it with their name. How would you feel if all of your documentation must now include the name of your competitor?

  5. mark bessey

    February 28, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Why don’t they just rename Abernathy between GA 400 and Glenridge instead? That road already changes its name multiple times along its length.

    • alexander

      February 28, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      great idea…there is hope for compromise !!

    • Terrence Smith Sr.

      March 1, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      I strongly agree with Abernathy being the road change. Some communities are asking for it to be Barfield – Mercedes rd.I have known a member of the Barfield family for years and it was me that alerted family and the newspaper over a year ago.I was asked to bring 5000 citizens to boycott the dealerships and to the door steps of City Hall.My calls was never returned from the Police Dept. or Mayor’s office.I have spoke to community leaders that are members of my civil rights groups. As of 3/3/17-I will contact the dealers to alert them that we are peaceful.

    • MT

      March 2, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      Just name it Peachtree Street. We could always use another one of those in Atlanta.

  6. RC

    February 28, 2017 at 9:39 am

    The only people that should have a say in this matter are people that live on Barfield and pay taxes.

    I’m all for renaming it. It brings a sense of prestige to the neighborhood…Barfield road brings nothing. A cow family? Really? and how long ago was that? Sandy Springs and Dunwoody are no longer cow towns.

    • alexander

      February 28, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      and Peachtree St brings a…peach?? While SS and Dunwoody are no longer cow towns , hopefully they have not stooped as low as renaming streets for style ( prestige??) over substance….

  7. SW

    February 28, 2017 at 11:08 am

    This issue sounds trivial, but it is not. It underscores the broader issue of how the pride of a corporation, in cahoots with governmental bureaucracy, is being placed above the cultural foundation of faith. Religion is at the very core of our society and it is under attack at all levels. At what point do we allow greed to over-take conscience?

    On a practical level, and in the spirit of being good neighbors, MBUSA, Sandy Springs and LDS Church officials should agree that a road name change will not negatively affect, one iota, MBUSA’s financial bottom line. However, it does affect the LDS Church for the reasons noted.

    Street name sharing is one possible compromise. In this case, the street signs would have “Barfield Road”, the long standing historical name, at the top, and Mercedes-Benz Drive beneath it. MBUSA gets its name on the street, history stays in tact, and the LDS Church does not have to change it’s stationary

    • Douglas Thompson

      March 1, 2017 at 7:18 pm

      SW – Well said and beautiful compromise (has worked well in other cities).

      In the body of the article, company spokesperson Donna Boland stated:

      “We don’t feel that the road renaming has an adverse impact or implication on church beliefs, but understand if the church feels it must voice its disagreement to the city,” Boland wrote in an email. “We are focused on being a valued member of the Sandy Springs community and hopefully that will be a more important factor than what this particular road is called.”

      As stated, the name being a less important factor, Mercedes can rename the other street if there is no opposition – or, as also noted in the article, name the street they are running through their property or just leave the street name as it is (continuing to honor those that came before).

      The comment about a rancher branding his cattle is appropriate here. They can brand “Their” items but branding their neighbors cattle (forcing their name to be on another entity’s letterhead) would be considered “rustling” and people got SHOT for doing that!

      I would also be willing to bet there would be no end to the complaints from Mercedes-Benz if another auto manufacturer put a plant next to them and tried the same B.S. (which has nothing to do with their beliefs, but everything to do with the Corporate “BRANDING” they would have to put on their Letterheads, Envelopes, Memos, Websites, etc.)

      Please send your correspondence to:

      Mercedes-Benz Corporation
      1234 (insert your choice of name below)
      Anytown, State/Province, Country, Postal Code

      CHEVROLET WAY
      DODGE DRIVE
      ACURA AVENUE
      ROLLS ROYCE ROAD
      LEXUS LANE
      BUICK BOULEVARD
      SUBARU STREET
      TOYOTA TRAIL
      FORD BELTWAY
      HYUNDAI HIGHWAY
      MITSUBISHI MOTORWAY
      PEUGEOT PLACE
      VOLKSWAGEN ROW
      INFINITI EXPRESSWAY
      NISSAN PARKWAY

  8. And then they wonder why...

    March 1, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Not being affiliated or knowledge able about Mormons (and not interested in being either one), I did wonder why only an elite few are allowed to enter the temple. Luxury, prestige and class status aren’t what the Mormons are about, huh? Somehow the word ‘hypocrite’ is surfacing in my mind…

    • Paul

      March 1, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Tyler and “And then they wonder why..”: The concept of “tithing” which is defined as 10 percent was described in the Old Testament. Abraham paid tithing to Melchizedek the King and the High Priest. However, according to you, it is now supposedly just about the money?

      You asked “…why only an elite few are allowed to enter the temple. Luxury, prestige and class status aren’t what the Mormons are about, huh?” You are correct when you say you are not knowledgeable about Mormons. Tithing is not a matter of prestige or class. For an example in the New Testament, read the story of the “widow’s mite.” Her tiny contribution did not raise her social status, but did show her devotion to God by offering what she had. Tithing could amount to 1 penny for a child, as a way of showing the child’s desire to live God’s law of Tithing. Certainly not going to change the child’s status in society, so your argument is not correct.

      Tithing is one of the ways to determine whether a person is living the principles outlined by God and the church. It is used to build church buildings for weekly worship, build Temples for special worship, and many other uses. More information may be had at: “https://www.mormon.org/blog/why-mormons-pay-tithing”.

    • Terrence Smith Sr.

      March 1, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      Freedom of religion. Temples all over the world operate about the same.

    • Terrence Smith Sr.

      March 1, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Freedom of religion?

  9. tt

    March 1, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Why doesn’t the church just find a poorer place to worship eg downtown that desperatelt needs revitailuzation? Really serve the poor vs faking it living in an area where people drive BMWs and Mercedes. Sandy Springs is just what it is, an afluent area!

    • Paul

      March 1, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      tt: You said: “Why doesn’t the church just find a poorer place to worship…? … Really serve the poor vs faking it living in… an afluent area!”

      The article states that “The Atlanta Georgia Temple opened in 1983, predating the city’s existence by more than two decades.” Are we to understand that the church must move just because the area is now affluent? The Temple was there before the city and certainly before MB. There is a chapel for weekly worship on the same property (just west of the Temple), so it may be possible that the church bought that piece in 1983 as well. People who attend services at that chapel are not limited to a social class, so some of the people from areas that “now need revitalization” may actually meet there as well. The Temple is used for special worship as discussed here: “https://www.mormon.org/beliefs/temples.” It draws from people all over the Atlanta/Georgia area.

      As far as “faking it”, here is more information on how we help the poor throughout the world, not just in Sandy Springs: “https://www.lds.org/welfare/75years/timeline?lang=eng”

      Also, why is the owner of an existing building being told to move to some area that now needs revitalization? The current location has worked just fine for us where it is, for 30+ years.

  10. Jennifer

    March 1, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    The name would be in the address field, not the title of the temple documents. This has no effect on the church other than the expense of renaming everything. Perhaps the temple would like their renaming expenses reimbursed by Sandy Springs? That seems reasonable. Objecting due to the actual name sounds very illogical. Did they vet the background of the Barfield family before purchasing the land in the first place? If a someone named Barfield became internationally famous and was known for immoral behaviour would they object to being on a street named Barfield?? Their objection really makes no sense.

  11. Terrence Smith Sr.

    March 1, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    Well said.

  12. Trapped in Traffic

    March 2, 2017 at 12:02 am

    I pay taxes. I don’t want my community branded by corporate advertising. The road was named for a local family long before the city council sold out the people they are supposed to represent.

  13. MT

    March 2, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    To bring that much business, jobs and taxes to the city, I think renaming a street is a small price to pay.

    It’s not like the street is being renamed to some awful name or something. It’s just a car folks.

  14. Nancy Akin

    March 3, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    I have lived in Sandy Springs since 1959. I love it here. However, I feel that the City leaders are more interested in tax money than keeping the City’s character. Little by little the history of the City is being chipped away. Barfield is one of the few roads we have that has a link to the City’s past. MB has their name on many other roadways in the U.S. Surely they should be happy with that and not try to bulldoze their way into Sandy Springs the way they have bulldozed our City of Trees–which soon will be the City of No Trees. Let us keep our history. We can do that and still move forward.

  15. Pete Stroliss

    March 3, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    What will happen when MB decides to re-locate to Birmingham in 20 years? I guess you could change the named to “Pre-Owned” Mercedes-Benz Dr.

    Maybe just rename Barfield Rd. from Abernathy Rd. south to the joint property line with the LDS Temple.

    Good luck to both entities who are good citizens of many communities around the world!

  16. mc

    March 3, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Why not name the road leading into the MB headquarters building MB Drive or Road or Lane or whatever they want to call it? MB along with many other businesses will be here today and gone tomorrow if they get a better deal from some other city overflowing with cash they want to bestow in corporate welfare.

    • Terrence Smith Sr.

      March 6, 2017 at 1:20 am

      well said.I have known a few members of the Barfield family for years. Some of them are members of the L.D.S church.The family farmed the land where the temple is located.During the 1800s and into the 1900s they farmed the land without slavery during the slave era. Also Mr.Barfield lost a family member that was murdered at mill in Marietta,and the KKK hung the wrong guy for it.Most people believe they chose him because he was a Jew. This is a very known popular event that took place in Marietta Georgia during those dark days. Many of the Mercedes dealers mentioned that the will not survive a boycott.I asked them to voice it at the meeting Tuesday night 3/7/2017 at 7:30pm at City Hall of Sandy Springs Ga.

  17. Eric Johnson

    March 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    If Mercedes Benz wants a street, let it buy its own. Otherwise the street belongs to the people of Sandy Springs.

    Its current and most prolific resident is the LDS church and the Barfields. If Mercedes Benz wants to be a new and good neighbor, it should respect the sensitivities of those who currently reside there; to do otherwise would be like “bullying”.

    If the people of a community all have Confederate flags in their yards, I must respect that even though I am an African-American who moved here from Ohio in the late 80’s. One of the things I like about the south is the citizens’ noteworthy sense of love for their ancestors and history. It moves them to take more pride and care of the land and property than those who do not.

    So Mercedes Benz, be a good neighbor and let it go!

  18. Carol Anderson

    March 7, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    I feel they should NOT change the name for any reason. It should have nothing to do with big business. I don’t even live nearby.
    I am originally from NJ, and have seen the expense it has caused people to change their address on everything. Rediculous!