COLUMBUS, Ohio — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed an appeal today on behalf of Tree of Life Christian Schools against the city of Upper Arlington for refusing to grant the school a permit to use its own new building. In August, a federal judge issued an opinion finding against the school’s claims of discrimination under federal law.
“No city should use its zoning code to discriminate against a Christian school and keep its students in inferior and overcrowded facilities,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “A city’s zoning code cannot give preferential treatment to non-religious institutions that function similarly to a Christian school.”
Alliance Defending Freedom filed the initial lawsuit against Upper Arlington in January, 2011, when city officials refused to allow Tree of Life Christian Schools to apply for zoning approval after it purchased the former America Online/Time-Warner building. The lawsuit challenges a zoning regulation that prohibits schools within the zone but permits daycare facilities and other similar uses.
If approved, the building would allow the school to double in size and to consolidate its inferior and overcrowded campuses holding approximately 660 students in the Columbus area. The school would also provide more than 150 new jobs to the city, as well as tax revenue greater than what has been realized from the vacant site in many years.
Under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, government officials are barred from subjecting religious ministries to unequal treatment in zoning laws.
“Upper Arlington will allow other groups to occupy a building in this zone, but it won’t allow this school,” added Stanley. “Federal law specifically prohibits zoning officials from subjecting religious organizations to this type of unequal treatment.”
The appeal in Tree of Life Christian Schools v. City of Upper Arlington is to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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