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Michigan township violated RLUIPA, federal judge rules

By The Associated Press

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A federal judge has ruled that township officials violated a religious land-use law when they refused to allow a church to expand its building to accommodate a 125-student school for boys.

The Okemos Christian Center in Ingham County sued the township in December 2003 after the township rejected a request by the church to expand its 11,000-square-foot facility by building a 35,000-square-foot addition.

Township board members said the church’s proposal would be too big for the center’s six-acre parcel.

U.S. District Judge Robert Bell’s Aug. 23 ruling approved the addition.

“It’s been a great day for us,” the Rev. Craig Dumont, of the center, told the Lansing State Journal for an Aug. 25 story.

He said building would not start until church officials saw whether the township would appeal the ruling.

Meridian Township Manager Jerry Richards said the township was “very disappointed” and was considering an appeal.

The suit was filed under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The law says that local governments’ land-use regulations shouldn’t impose substantial roadblocks on religious entities unless there is a “compelling governmental interest.”

Bell ruled that the township violated the act. He said the township acted arbitrarily and that the denial was not based on township ordinances.

The township had argued that the act was unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment’s guarantee that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”


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RLUIPA, religious buildings & zoning

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