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.
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, preventing LCS from operating at the church or anywhere within Genoa Township. A few weeks later, the Board explained the denial was due to 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.
On November 4, 2016, 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.
“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,” Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty Institute, says. “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,” Sasser added.
On April 26, 2017, attorneys with First Liberty presented oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. An opinion is expected later this year.
For Immediate Release: November 4, 2016
Contact: Kassie Dulin, email@example.com
Cell: 214-542-4334, Direct: 972-941-4575
CHRISTIAN SCHOOL FIGHTS TOWNSHIP ON RIGHT TO OPERATE SCHOOL OUT OF A CHURCH
Livingston Christian Schools appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for the right to house religious school on church property
Genoa Charter Township, Mich. – Today, First Liberty Institute filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on behalf of Livingston Christian Schools (LCS). In 2014, LCS requested permission to relocate their school onto church property in Genoa Charter Township. Against the recommendation of the local zoning board, the Township refused to grant the zoning permit, substantially burdening LCS’s ability to operate a Christian school. LCS brought suit to protect its right to exist as a ministry in Genoa Township.
When its previous facility could no longer support the school, LCS found a new home in Brighton Church of the Nazarene. The church agreed to lease one of its buildings to house the school. Brighton Church then submitted an application to amend its permit to allow LCS to use the building as a religious school. Although the Township’s experts, the local community, and the local zoning board all agreed that the permit should be granted, the Township Board denied the application, preventing LCS from operating anywhere within Genoa Township.
LCS has been engaged in litigation at the federal level for two years, attempting to secure their right to operate in Genoa Township. They sued the Township under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), arguing that the Township’s actions substantially burdened the school’s ability to operate as a religious ministry.
“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,” Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty Institute, says. “That’s wrong. Federal law expressly prohibits the government using zoning laws to keep religious institutions out of their town.”
Read more about the case at FirstLiberty.org/Livingston
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 Kassie Dulin, Director of Legal Communications for First Liberty Institute. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Direct: 972-941-9575, Cell: 214-542-4334.
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