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US Supreme Court Will Not Review Case of Christian School Banned from Michigan Township


The United States Supreme Court announced Monday it will not hear the case of Livingston Christian School v. Genoa Charter Township.  

The case focused on the private Christian school which applied for a permit to use the facilities of a Brighton, Michigan church building for its operations.

According to The Livingston Daily, Livingston Christian Schools filed a lawsuit in August of 2015 after Genoa Township officials denied a permit request to operate the school in the Brighton Church of the Nazarene, known locally as The Naz.

The school's permit was rejected even though township officials had recommendations from the town's planning commission and consultants who approved the school's use of the property, according to the First Liberty Institute who represented the school in the case. 

School administrators had made plans to move the student body consisting of 140 students from their existing facility to The Naz.  The school had signed a lease with the church before the permit was rejected. 

First Liberty Institute attorneys argued when the township refused to approve a permit to allow LCS to operate its school at the church building, it effectively precluded the school from existing anywhere in the town. 

The school's suit alleged the township violated its rights under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  According to the First Liberty Institute, Congress enacted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) to prevent cities from using zoning rules to push religious organizations out of their city.

Township officials at the time said the school's permit was denied, in part, due to concerns over increased traffic congestion on a busy local road near the high school.

The school lost in federal court and appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Last year, that court held that it is not 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.

Hiram Sasser, general counsel at First Liberty believes the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case could set a precedent for other cities and towns officials. 

"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," Sasser said in a statement.  "Federal law expressly prohibits the government from using zoning laws to keep religious institutions out of their town. We are extremely disappointed the Supreme Court will allow this terrible precedent to stand.  We are, however, grateful to Rob Kelner and the entire team at Covington & Burling, LLP, for their diligent efforts in seeking to protect religious freedom in this case."

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