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Supreme Court of the United States

The No Church Zone: Cities & Towns Discount the Value of Churches

By Kevin Theriot posted on:
October 17, 2017

God has chosen to use the Body of Christ to bring not only His message of salvation to the world (Matthew 28:19-20), but also a message of truth and love through providing for the needs of people (Matthew 25:34-40).  Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of the Church’s mission.  George Washington said in his Farewell Address:  “And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure--reason & experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Unfortunately, many of our political leaders have forgotten this today.  Churches are often seen as just one more non-profit organization that focuses on their own constituents.  So local municipalities enact zoning codes that prohibit churches in residential areas because they cause too much traffic.  They exclude churches from agricultural zones because they detract from the bucolic ambiance, and forbid them in commercial zones because they don’t generate enough taxes.

But when cities and towns exclude churches, they do so to their detriment.  Studies have shown that churches are a tremendous benefit to the communities they serve.  For instance, a Baylor University study found that kids that attend church in low income neighborhoods have a better chance of staying in school and succeeding academically.  Another study concludes that “Churches and religious groups offer a vast array of services to their local communities …that sometimes are not being provided elsewhere, such as [a]fter-school programs, refugee resettlement, homeless shelters, [and] food banks….”

In recent months, ADF has been increasingly involved in cases defending the right of churches to even have a place to meet.  Woodbridge Church near Minneapolis was the victim of a town zoning ordinance that specifically targeted them for restrictions prohibiting future growth.  Port St. Lucie, Florida is prohibiting Palm Beach Gardens Baptist Church from locating in an area where other types of assemblies like private clubs are allowed.  And the City of Mission, Kansas now taxes church attendance with property assessments disguised as “fees.”

This is sad and alarming at the same time.  The many social services churches provide through food, clothing, and counseling will be sorely missed by these communities.  And, according to our first president, without the church and the morality it fosters, our government could very well collapse into anarchy.

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Kevin Theriot

Kevin Theriot

Senior Counsel

Kevin Theriot serves as senior counsel and vice president of the Center for Life with Alliance Defending Freedom

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