This week on FOT we will have the story of a Christian school that is trying to locate in a church complex and although the township’s zoning boards approved the request the township denied the school’s request and surprisingly the federal district court ruled that the school’s religious liberty had not been “substantially burdened” by the town’s decision.
For nine years, Livingston Christian School (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.
They found only one viable option. 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.” This denial came despite the opposite conclusions of consultants, the planning commission, the community development director, and town residents.
That case is now on its way to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and you can read First Liberty’s brief appealing the district court’s opinion.
Joining us to discuss the case is Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys with the First Liberty Institute
where he focuses on religious liberty matters and the First Amendment. Jeremy earned his law degree from West Virginia University College of Law in 2005. After law school, he clerked for the Hon. Russell M. Clawges, Jr., chief judge of the Circuit Court of Monongalia County in Morgantown, West Virginia. For six years prior to joining First Liberty Institute, he led a public policy organization where he led research and advocacy efforts on matters of life, marriage, and religious freedom.
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