Hope Rising Community Church was facing a problem when their congregation outgrew its facilities. It was a good problem to have, until the city ordered them to cease and desist all of their worship services. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.
Hope Rising Community Church faced a problem they really liked having: they were outgrowing their facilities.
For a while, the room at the Penn Hebron Garden Club in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania worked all right, but it soon became clear that the growing attendance required a move. So, they signed a three-year lease on a local warehouse building, spent thousands of dollars in renovations, and made preparations to move in for their weekly worship service.
But, soon after moving in, the church received orders from the city to cease and desist all their worship services and large group assemblies. Evidently, the use of the warehouse violated the city’s zoning laws, even though parks, playgrounds, and educational institutions were welcomed.
When Hope Rising sued the City of Penn Hills under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, RLUIPA for short, a federal magistrate judge concluded the city violated federal law. Penn Hills was not treating Hope Rising on equal terms as parks, playgrounds, and educational institutions and certainly failed to show “how a religious institution would cause greater harm” in that zone than a park, playground, or educational institution.
City zoning laws are often applied in ways that are unfair to houses of worship. Federal laws like RLUIPA ensure zoning laws don’t discriminate.
To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.