US Supreme Court upholds Christian school ban in Michigan Township, refuses to hear the case

The United States Supreme Court confirmed that it wouldn't be hearing the case of a Christian school banned by a Michigan Township. Instead, it has upheld a previous ruling that stated the Genoa Charter Township did not violate any laws.

(Reuters/Molly Riley)People stand at the foot of the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, May 20, 2009.

In 2015, Livingston Christian School, a private school, applied for a permit to use the facilities of the Brighton Church of the Nazarene in accordance with its revised zoning laws. The Genoa Charter Township, however, denied the permit despite the recommendations from the town's planning commission that allowed the use of the church, also known as Naz, for the school's operation.

Before the rejection, school administrators already signed a lease with the church and were preparing to move its 140 students for the 2015 to 2016 school year. As a result of the ban, the students remained in its old location in Pinckney and Livingston Christian School then sued the Genoa Charter Township.

Lawyers from the First Liberty Institute, who argued for the school, stated that the rejection disallowed the school to exist, which was in violation of the school's rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act that Congress passed in 2000. The law stipulated that zoning regulations should not remove religious institutions from the city.

Township officials, however, said that the permit's rejection was due to concerns that there would be increased traffic congestion in the area. Township Clerk Polly Skolarus clarified: "It was about traffic safety issues, circulation issues when dropping off children, and there has to be a way to exit the facility safely."

Liberty Christian School lost its case at the federal court but filed an appeal at the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. The latter, however, upheld the federal court's ruling and cited that the school did not provide enough evidence as to why it must move from its Pinckney site.

"This is shocking and cannot be allowed to stand," Hiram Sasser of First Liberty Institute said. "It states that it is not a burden on religious exercise for a city to ban religious schools, churches, synagogues or mosques from moving into town," he added, going on to say, "This precedent is very dangerous."

Liberty Christian School Principal Ted Nast told reporters that some student left the school as its location remains in limbo. School officials will still discuss their next steps following the Supreme Court's decision.

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