A federal court denied San Diego’s request to dismiss a lawsuit by a church accusing the city of discrimination for charging churches higher rental fees than similar community groups.
Canyon Ridge Baptist Church, represented by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, rents a city-owned facility, the Kearny Mesa Recreation Center, for its Sunday worship services.
“A landlord – especially when it’s the government – shouldn’t treat Christian tenants any differently than other tenants,” said ADF attorney Tim Chandler.
A city, he explained, “cannot single out religious organizations for unequal treatment in comparison to other similarly situated groups.”
The city provides the recreation center at no cost or for a nominal fee to many governmental and community groups. But San Diego officials charge religious organizations its highest rate, which is up to 21 times higher than what other community groups are charged.
“Enforcing different fee schedules based on a group’s speech is clearly unconstitutional,” Chandler said.
The lawyer contends his case is “founded on well-established legal precedent, and we look forward to making sure this church is not mistreated by the city.”
ADF attorneys filed suit against the city last December in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
The public-interest legal group says it has been involved in a number of significant victories involving government entities that have charged religious organizations higher fees than other groups, including Gentala v. City of Tucson, Ariz.
A copy of the court’s order denying the city of San Diego’s motion to dismiss the case can be read here.
Chandler will argue before the court Monday in favor of a motion for preliminary injunction.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled Nov. 17 the city of New York’s board of education could not prohibit a Bronx church from holding worship meetings on school grounds. The court issued a permanent injunction following a 10-year fight to allow the church equal access to public facilities.