Christian School Can Be Banned From Michigan Township, Judges Rule

A panel of a U.S. Court of Appeals said Friday that a Michigan Township can forbid a Christian school from moving into its city.

“The government is refusing to allow a Christian school to move into a building on church property or, for that matter, anywhere else in town. That’s wrong,” Sasser said earlier, explaining the basis for the lawsuit. “Federal law expressly prohibits the government using zoning laws to keep religious institutions out of their town. … This case will determine whether cities across America can ban Christian schools from their city limits. We hope the court will protect the rights of religious institutions to exist in American cities.”

 

A panel of a U.S. Court of Appeals said Friday that a Michigan Township can forbid a Christian school from moving into its city. First Liberty Institute, which is representing Livingston Christian School, called it a “very dangerous” precedent.

“This precedent is very dangerous. It states that it is not a burden on religious exercise for a city to ban religious schools, churches, synagogues or mosques from moving into town,” Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel of First Liberty, said in a statement after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected the Christian school’s appeal.

LCS first brought a lawsuit in a federal court in Michigan to protect its right to exist as a ministry in Genoa Township. They sued the Township under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, for not allowing them to use a portion of the Brighton Church of the Nazarene, known as The Naz. The school wanted to move students from the former St. Mary School building in neighboring Pinckney to The Naz.

Despite the recommendations of the town’s planning commission and consultants who approved the school’s application, Genoa Township in July 2015 refused to give LCS a permit to operate its school at Brighton Church, effectively precluding the school from existing anywhere in the town.

The school argued in its lawsuit that the township’s actions substantially burdened the school’s ability to operate as a religious ministry. After arguments at the appeals court in April, the three judges of the Sixth Circuit concluded that the township’s ban did not present a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion of Livingston Christian School.

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