The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case in which a Michigan township changed its zoning laws to prevent a Christian school from entering the community.
“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,” said Hiram Sasser, general counsel to First Liberty, which represents Livingston Christian Schoolin the case against Genoa Charter Township.
“We are extremely disappointed the Supreme Court will allow this terrible precedent to stand.”
For a case to be heard, it must have the support of at least four justices.
The decision came after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it isn’t 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.”
At the time of the 6th Circuit ruling in 2017, Sasser warned that letting the decision stand would endanger churches and religious institutions.
The case developed in 2016 when Livingston found a new location on the property of Brighton Church of the Nazarene.
The local planning commission approved the plan, the community supported it and even experts summoned by the township were in favor.
Then the town council rejected the application.
First Liberty said at the time the township “threatened the survival of the school as a religious institution because, as the record demonstrates, the school has no viable alternative location.”
Sasser said the city refused to let the Christian school move to the church “or, for that matter, anywhere else in town” despite the fact “federal law expressly prohibits the government using zoning laws to keep religious institutions out of their town.”
Livingston had been operating in nearby Pinckney, but it needed more room, and the facility it was in became unaffordable, the legal team said.
“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.”
But the plan went down in flames when the township board rejected the presence of the school “anywhere within Genoa Township,” the team said.
Principal Ted Nast said the school already had lost students because of the town’s opposition, and its survival was in doubt.