IFAS | Freedom Writer | Summer 2001 | church.html

City can't ban church

St. Louis, Missouri Parts of some cities seem to have a storefront church on every block, but city planners in St. Louis proposed a redevelopment plan that bans social service agencies and storefront churches in some areas. So, when Pastor Paul Hamilton applied for an occupancy permit for his charismatic church, Hole in the Roof Ministry Center, his application was denied.

Hamilton sued the city, and in May, a circuit court judge ruled that "the city overstepped its authority" by denying the occupancy permit. The nine-member church, which includes seven members of the pastor's family, met in his home while awaiting the court's favorable ruling.

Last year, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act went into effect. This federal law protects religious institutions from zoning restrictions unless the government can find a "compelling interest" in restricting them. Employing the new law, a church in Grand Haven, Michigan won its fight to open a house of worship in a shopping center that excluded churches as tenants.

© 2001 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.