A Georgia trial court ruled against county officials who refused to issue a permit to a church.

The court said Douglas County officials acted in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act when they refused to issue a special land use permit to the Victory Family Life Church.

Officials denied the church’s permit application because it did not meet the county’s three-acre requirement for houses of worship.

But Joel Oster, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which helped fund the church’s case, called it an illegal ordinance that “only served to restrict churches and did not further any legitimate county interest.”

“It was particularly ludicrous because the church owns 2.8 acres,” said Oster, who submitted a friend-of-the-court brief [pdf file] Oct. 14.

The three-acre minimum requirement was arbitrary and did not apply to any other organization or assembly, he argued.

ADF said Victory Family Life Church submitted its application June 16, 2003, in accordance with local zoning laws requiring houses of worship in the county to obtain a special land use permit prior to building or expanding.

The County Planning Staff and the Douglas County Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny the church’s application, although both groups earlier recommended approval.

The Board of Commissioners voted twice to deny the permit, saying the church did not contain the necessary three acres for a place of worship and that the board had concerns about encroachment into a surrounding community.

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