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Village’s discriminatory rental fee forces Mich. church to stop meeting

ADF files suit over discriminatory fee schedule that charges churches but allows non-religious community groups to meet free of charge

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday on behalf of Forest Area Bible Church after unfair rental fees imposed by the village of Fife Lake forced the congregation to stop meeting in a local building.  While religious organizations are charged by the village, many non-religious community groups are permitted to meet free of charge.

“Christian groups should not be discriminated against for their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Tim Chandler.  “The fee schedule unfairly targets churches and religious organizations while allowing other community groups to meet free of charge.  It’s obviously unfair, and the courts have repeatedly held that type of practice to be unconstitutional.”

The Village of Fife Lake Council, the local governing body in the village, opened its Municipal Building meeting room for rent by any private group or individual.  However, its fee schedule forces churches and religious organizations to pay for use of the space while it allows free use by other community organizations, such as the American Legion, Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, and the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

The church paid the rental fee for approximately 18 months.  They have since stopped meeting because of the cost and a lack of alternative locations.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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Timothy D. Chandler
Timothy D. Chandler
Senior Counsel, Vice President of Church & Ministry Alliance Engagement & Strategic Projects
Timothy D. Chandler serves as senior counsel and vice president of Church & Ministry Alliance engagement & strategic projects with Alliance Defending Freedom.