‘The government isn’t being neutral when it treats religious organizations worse than everyone else…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) A private Christian school in Upper Arlington, Ohio asked the Supreme Court to hear its religious discrimination lawsuit after lower courts blocked the school from using its building in an area zoned for “commercial use.”
Tree of Life Christian Schools in 2010 bought a building formerly used as office space by America Online and Time–Warner to consolidate its three growing campuses of 660 students into one location, said The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the school in the case.
ADF filed the case under the “Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act,” which bars religious discrimination in land use and zoning laws. The lawsuit alleges that similar secular businesses can operate in the area, such as “daycare facilities and other secular nonprofits,” but not the Christian school, ADF reported.
“The government isn’t being neutral when it treats religious organizations worse than everyone else,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley. “Upper Arlington’s actions are in defiance of federal law, which prohibits cities from discriminating against religious groups.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom requested the Supreme Court’s intervention after an eight-year legal battle that has continued because a federal district court and a federal appeals court have issued differing judgements.
“The City of Upper Arlington, Ohio is adamant that the school’s building house commercial activity to generate tax revenue, even though the City’s zoning code does not require that, and the City would readily allow other non-profit activity at the site,” according to the petition that ADF attorneys filed with the Supreme Court.
ADF argues that Upper Arlington could have been collecting tax revenue during the past eight years.
“…by denying Tree of Life the use of its own building for eight years, the city has forfeited roughly $1 million in tax revenue. The longer the city bars Tree of Life from using its property, the more money the city and its residents lose,” Stanley said.
“Even though Tree of Life shouldn’t have to prove that it will generate tax revenue to occupy its building, the truth is that Tree of Life would generate comparable levels of tax revenue as other secular nonprofit organizations the city allows.”
Plus, Tree of Life moving to its new location would allow the school to expand and serve 1,200 students as well as hire 150 new teachers and staff.