CITY’S BAN ON CHRISTIAN CHURCH ‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL’

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The action was filed this week by the Alliance Defending Freedom over the action by the city of Monroe, North Carolina, to not allow a church to have worship services at its newly rented and renovated building.

That’s even though another church had been in that space previously.

What happened was that the city adopted a new, and “unconstitutional” zoning code that bars the group called “At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church.”

If the church were a library, it would be allowed there. Or a museum. Or another nonprofit group.

“The government can’t discriminate against churches simply because they are religious,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church is being told they are unwelcome – in the same part of the community where city officials would allow a library, art gallery, or museum. Zoning laws like Monroe’s are unconstitutional and violate federal law.”

The background is that the church’s leaders visited the site, at 1617 W. Roosevelt Blvd., with a goal of finding a location they could use.

“The property owner informed them that another church had occupied space in the same building in the recent past. In January 2018, the church entered into an agreement to rent the 1,500-square-foot property and proceeded to renovate it,” ADF reported.

But when it asked for a certificate of occupancy, the city said the rules had been changed and no church would be allowed in that location.

The regulations allow for “education, training, or resources of a public, nonprofit, or charitable nature,” the ADF said.

But it identifies churches as not allowed.

The action by the ADF attorneys that now has been filed is At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church v. City of Monroe in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.

“The city has treated the church on less than equal terms with similarly situationed nonreligious assemblies and institutions, substantially burdened the church’s free exercise of religion, and infringed on the church’s rights to free speech, peaceable assembly, and equal protection,” the complaint states.

WND’s attempt to obtain a comment from the city because it was closed.

“The city’s unequal treatment and discrimination against the church, through ordinance O-2017-13 and its officers, agents, servants, employees, or persons ating at their behest or direction, has caused the church to suffer damages,” the complaint explains.

The lawsuit asserts the city is violation the church’s equal terms rights, nondiscrimination requirements, the Free Exercise Clause, free speech, and other constitutional provisions.

It asks that the city be told to treat the church fairly and equally.