NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 9, 2006

The Liberty Legal Institute, which represents churches in religious-freedom disputes, says more communities are tightening zoning codes or considering other ways to restrict church locations.

The communities with restrictions say they're not against churches, they just want a variety of services for their residents and businesses that attract customers seven days a week.

Some recent examples:

  • Kenly, N.C., adopted a moratorium on storefront churches in August and later expanded it to include halls, theaters and other gathering places.
  • Stafford, Texas, home to 51 places of worship in its 7 square miles, intends to tighten the zoning rules that govern church location, Mayor Leonard Scarcella says; only 300 acres of empty land remain available for development.
  • Miramar, Fla., put a six-month hold on "places of public assembly," including churches, in June and is working on a permanent plan.

The Liberty Counsel, a group that defends churches, sued Titusville, Pa., in July over zoning that prohibits churches in commercial zones where clubs and theaters are allowed.

Titusville Mayor Brian Sanford says the rule protects businesses that cannot be near churches.  The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, for instance, may refuse to grant a liquor license application to an establishment within 300 feet of a church.

Source: Emily Bazar, "Cities opt for economics instead of religion to boost downtown areas," USA Today, October 8, 2006.

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