Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ohio City Determines to Block Development of a Christian School

In this election season, you can’t turn on a TV or radio without hearing ads and sound bites from politicians and aspiring candidates talking about the crucial need for better education, more jobs, and the need to raise taxes on somebody.
But city officials in Upper Arlington, Ohio, seem to think they can get along just fine without any of those things – if it ensures that they can prevent people like you from providing a Christ-friendly learning environment for their children.
Which is why, on September 11, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys were compelled to file an appeal against the city on behalf of Tree of Life Christian Schools. Officials have been refusing to grant Tree of Life a permit that would allow them to use their own building – and, incredible as it may seem, a federal judge recently supported the city’s position.
It’s been almost two years since we filed the initial lawsuit against Upper Arlington, after city officials refused to allow Tree of Life Christian Schools – whose owners had just purchased the former America Online/Time-Warner building – to apply for zoning approval that would let them use the expansive facility as their new campus. Curiously, the city has no problem allowing daycare facilities and other similar groups to locate in the same zone without seeking advance zoning approval.
Their decision is even harder to understand when you consider that the building – which would allow the school to double in size, consolidate its resources, and relieve its other, overcrowded campuses – would accommodate approximately 660 students, provide more than 150 new jobs to the city, and increase tax revenues. All of which would seem preferable to a big, empty building.
Faced with the city’s recalcitrance, Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which bars government officials from subjecting religious ministries to unequal treatment in zoning laws. In August, though, a federal judge ruled against the school; now we’re appealing the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
“Federal law specifically prohibits zoning officials from subjecting religious organizations to this type of unequal treatment,” says Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “Upper Arlington will allow other groups to occupy a building in this zone, but it won’t allow this school.



Anonymous said...

The District Court comments indicate that Tree of Life Ministries has not asked the City for a rezoning to school use, even though the City notified the Tree of Life that a rezoning would be needed. The Court stated that Tree of Life instead filed a lawsuit to get a rezoning, but needed first to ask for one and be denied [if indeed they would be] and then file a lawsuit. Why doesn't Tree of Life just ask for rezoning?

Anonymous said...

The Court stated that the evidence showed that the City did not allow others to use any property in the zone as a school or daycare, etc. So it seems the City is applying its zoning code evenly, according to the court findings.