The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a Christian school in Ohio that claims it was subject to discrimination by the city of Upper Arlington.
“The government isn’t being neutral toward religion when it chooses to treat religious organizations worse than other entities,” said John Bursch, the vice president of appellate advocacy for the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Upper Arlington’s actions are in defiance of federal law, which prohibits cities from discriminating against religious groups in zoning matters. The government can’t say ‘yes’ to daycare centers and other nonprofit uses of property but say ‘no’ to a Christian school that wants to educate children. For that reason, this issue will come back to the court someday in a different case.”
The high court declined to take the case of Tree of Life Christian Schools, which has fought for eight years against the city. Upper Arlington allowed other nonprofit organizations to set up shop in a zone where the school had purchase a building to expand. But the city refused to grant the school permission to operate there.
“The city denied zoning approval for the school to relocate its growing, three-campus network to a single location,” ADF said.
The case began in 2011 after the city refused to let the school use a former America Online/Time-Warner building it purchased that had been left vacant.
The building would have served the school’s plan to expand to 1,200 students and provide 150 new jobs to the city.
The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act prohibits religious discrimination in land use and zoning matters.
When Tree of Life sued Upper Arlington, it argued the city already was allowing daycare and other nonprofit centers to operate.
But the city retaliated by banishing the daycare centers.
A lower court judge pointed out the city’s changing standards.
“Although they were a permitted use, daycares were ultimately removed as a permitted use in the district during the pendency of this litigation,” the judge wrote in his decision.
The city demanded that a commercial operation occupy the building.
An appeals court originally reversed the judge, saying the city could not discriminate “to maximize the government’s income-tax revenue.”
But then the city banished the other nonprofits from the district.