Supreme Court Lets Stand Ruling Favoring California Church
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will not review a decision siding with a California church that had not been allowed to use its property for religious assembly. The order denying a petition from the City of San Leandro, just across the bay from San Francisco, means that local governments throughout the West Coast will be held more accountable by federal courts when they restrict the locations of religious congregations.
The church, Faith Fellowship Worship Center, is represented by Pacific Justice Institute. PJI President Brad Dacus noted, “We are gratified that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to stand the favorable decision we won at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision strikes an important balance between both the legitimate goals of city planners and the fundamental rights of religious congregations to exist and be treated fairly in the zoning process.”
The church filed suit in 2007 after the City of San Leandro denied zoning requests for a new building the church had purchased. In court, the City justified its decision by arguing that the church would not create the economic impact desired by the city for the location. The City also claimed that the church should respond to its growth by farming out its ministries to numerous smaller sites spread throughout the city. Church leaders and religious liberty advocates were alarmed that such reasoning—which was initially accepted by a federal district judge in San Francisco—would have led to increased governmental restrictions on religious groups. The case now heads back to the federal court that initially sided with the City, but with instructions from the Ninth Circuit to take a different approach.