Livingston Christian Schools | Cases | First Liberty

Supreme Court Declines Review

The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not review the case Livingston Christian School v. Genoa Charter Township, in which attorneys for First Liberty Institute and Covington & Burling, LLP represent Livingston Christian School. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that it is not a burden on religious exercise for a city to use its zoning laws to prevent a religious school, church, synagogue, or mosque from moving into town.

Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty, remarked on the decision of the Supreme Court,

“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. Federal law expressly prohibits the government from using zoning laws to keep religious institutions out of their town. We are extremely disappointed the Supreme Court will allow this terrible precedent to stand. We are, however, grateful to Rob Kelner and the entire team at Covington & Burling, LLP, for their diligent efforts in seeking to protect religious freedom in this case.”

Case History

For nine years, LCS operated its school in the Village of Pinckney, Michigan. In 2014, the school sought a new, larger location more centrally located to their students. After evaluating and rejecting several possible locations, they found only one viable alternative. LCS entered into an agreement with Brighton Church of the Nazarene to lease one of its buildings to house the school. In March 2015, Brighton Church, on behalf of LCS, submitted an application to amend its existing special use land permit to allow the school to use the church’s building as a religious school.

City Denied Special Land Use Permit

The Township hired several consultants who concluded that the application should be approved. The Township’s Planning Commission and Community Development Director also recommended that the Board approve the application. Several residents of Genoa Township also spoke in favor of the school’s application before the town’s Board.

But, on July 20, 2015, the Township Board denied the application without explanation (one of the first times the Township Board had everrejected the recommendation of the Planning Commission), preventing LCS from operating at the church and effectively preventing it from operating anywhere within Genoa Township. Weeks later, the Board justified the vote to deny the application, citing concerns the school would overburden the public infrastructure and would not promote “harmonious and organized development consistent with adjacent land uses,” despite the opposite conclusions of consultants, the planning commission, the community development director, and town residents. This denial by the Township led to substantial damages, including the loss of enrollment, to LCS and is the basis for ongoing review by the courts.

However, LCS made it clear with the assistance of First Liberty, they were willing to fight for their right to exist and in late 2017, the Township Board approved, subject to certain conditions, a new application by LCS for a special use permit. LCS hopes to meet all the necessary conditions set by the Township and receive final approval to move into the Brighton Church in time for the 2018-2019 school year.

First Liberty Legal Action

First Liberty Institute and attorneys from Covington & Burling, LLP filed a brief on behalf of Livingston Christian Schools defending the school’s right to freely exercise its religious mission in Genoa Township.

Attorneys with First Liberty presented oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld the Township’s denial of the permit and found that the Township’s actions did not “constitute a substantial burden” on LCS’s free exercise of religion.

First Liberty and attorneys from Covington & Burling, LLP petitioned the Sixth Circuit for en banc review but were denied. LCS asked the Supreme Court of the United States to review the decision of the Sixth Circuit and the extensive damages caused to the school by the Township Board’s first rejection of the special use permit. The Supreme Court declined to review the decision of the Sixth Circuit.

 

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release: April 30, 2018
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Review Case of Christian School Banned from Michigan Township

School wanted Court to ensure its right to exist in its community and continue serving families and students


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not review the case Livingston Christian School v. Genoa Charter Township, in which attorneys for First Liberty Institute and Covington & Burling, LLP represent Livingston Christian School. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that it is not a burden on religious exercise for a city to use its zoning laws to prevent a religious school, church, synagogue, or mosque from moving into town.

Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty, released the following statement after the decision:

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. Federal law expressly prohibits the government from using zoning laws to keep religious institutions out of their town. We are extremely disappointed the Supreme Court will allow this terrible precedent to stand. We are, however, grateful to Rob Kelner and the entire team at Covington & Burling, LLP, for their diligent efforts in seeking to protect religious freedom in this case.

To learn more, visit FirstLiberty.org/Livingston-Christian-Schools.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941- 4453.


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To The American Legion:

As a grateful citizen, I support your effort to honor those who have fallen in battle and to keep the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial standing as a visible reminder of valor, sacrifice, endurance, and devotion.

Veterans memorials like the one in Bladensburg, MD are symbols reminding us of the sacrifice of our service members and the cost of war. Tearing down the Bladensburg Memorial would erase the memory of the 49 fallen heroes of Prince George’s County—like they never even existed.

We cannot allow the Bladensburg Memorial to be bulldozed.

Please know that you have my support and backing in your petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.