World Net Daily posted an article yesterday about a recent court case in Jacksonville, Florida. The case involved The Church of Our Savior in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The church had been renting space to meet, meeting in homes, etc. and finally bought a piece of land to build a permanent place to meet.
The article reports:
Members bought land for a permanent meeting site, but city officials refused permission, citing the character of the neighborhood.
A court eventually ruled that the city, under federal law, must allow the church to use the land it bought. And now the Alliance Defending Freedom has announced an agreement in which the city must pay “$290,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses the church incurred to defend its constitutionally and legally protected freedoms.”
The interesting part of this article is that fact that the city officials claimed to be protecting the ‘character’ of the neighborhood.
The article reports:
The church’s property is adjacent to an amusement park that offers water attractions, miniature golf and laser tag, and the plan was for a 7,400-square foot, one-story building for an estimated 200 worshipers.
The city’s Planning and Development Department had recommended permission be granted for the church to build.
But several neighbors objected, and one member of the planning commission “expressed his belief that the church was not consistent with the character of the neighborhood,” leading to a 5-0 vote to reject the plan.
I see nothing wrong with putting a church next to an amusement park–I think it is a great idea–encourage people to bring a change of clothes to church and visit the park afterwords. This could actually be a really good thing for the amusement park and for the neighborhood.
One thing I would like to note that the article mentioned:
“A city’s zoning restrictions cannot be used to single out churches for discrimination, so we are pleased at the outcome of this case,” said Daniel P. Dalton of the Michigan law firm Dalton & Tomich, an ADF affiliate.
He cited the court’s ruling that the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act meant the city couldn’t interfere with the church’s plans to build a facility.
Our laws protect Christians against the kind of discrimination that this city attempted. All of us need to be aware of our rights under the law.
In the past, anti-religious groups have used lawsuits to drain the finances of religious groups. Since the religious groups could not afford the legal costs, they often lost the rights the law gives them. In this case, because the city was forced to pay court costs, other groups may reconsider before attempting to infringe on the rights of Christians.