Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Religious freedom and Holly's zoning laws

If a zoning law will not allow a church to be established because of most any other reason other than it is a church, than it should receive the support of the community. But in Holly Township, a local zoning law states that a church specifically can not be established in a commercial district. Now a church that is in a commercial district is appealing the law, as they should.

Pastor James Disbrow and his Carpenter’s House Church have less than a year before he and his congregation is to be evicted from their current location. It is housed in a building in an area that Holly Township has designated to be used for commercial purposes only. If you go to Fish Lake and Grange Hall Road where the church is located, it would be difficult for you to tell what the location is zoned. It is mostly open land and very few buildings. There is no apparent reason why this church or any church would be risking the order and safety of the community.

But, no matter what the area is zoned, a house of worship of any kind has the right to be located most anywhere.

The Federal Council of Churches in Christ and the Foreign Missions Conference of North American adopted a position on the placement of churches throughout the world. The Foreign Missions Conference assists churches and missionaries in other parts of the world. Some of those places may not be as tolerate of religion as we are in the United States. In part, they state, that churches should be able to “acquire and hold property, for [religious purposes].” There doesn’t seem to be a good reason why a “church” specifically should be excluded from an area zoned commercial.

The only exception would be for the order and safety of the community because no right is absolute. Then, the community needs to have a clear reason to exclude a group like a church. Perhaps it would be because of traffic or large numbers of people attending an event at all the same time. To state that a church can not be placed in a specific area is like saying you can only have freedom of speech in some areas or you can’t own a gun in the city limits. (The Supreme Court recently struck down laws that ban gun ownership in cities across the country.)

Holly needs to review its current zoning laws to insure that religion is not impeded specifically because of religion. By banning churches from commercial areas the township is violating a basic right of an individual and a group, the freedom of religion.


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