On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that effectively prevented the Livingston Christian School (LCS) from relocating to a nearby township.
The issue arose when LCS, recognizing the need to relocate for the school’s long-term viability, determined the only reasonable possibility was to lease property owned by Brighton Church of the Nazarene in Genoa Charter Township, Michigan. Breaking with general practice, the township board went against the recommendation of its Planning Commission and Community Development Director and denied the church’s special purpose permit application to utilize the church as a school.
LCS then filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court contending the denial of the application violated a federal law aimed at preventing cities from using zoning rules to push religious organizations out of their city.
The appellate court upheld the district court’s ruling that the denial was not a “substantial burden” on the church’s exercise of religion.
“This is a deeply disappointing decision, not only because of what it means for our clients, but because it will embolden other cities and towns across the country to keep religious organizations from contributing to their community,” said Hiram Sasser, general counsel to First Liberty, which represents the school. “We are extremely disappointed the Supreme Court will allow this terrible precedent to stand.”
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