(FreedomJournal.org)- The Californian city of Salinas has forced an evangelical Christian church to sell up and leave the city, claiming it doesn’t fit in with the area. The New Harvest Christian Fellowship purchased the building that would become its church at the beginning of 2017 when its congregation became too large for its old rented space. After being in the same rented property for 25 years, the church purchased a new downtown property…but that’s where things got complicated.
A city ordinance which stops houses of worship from occupying the first floors of buildings in the downtown region triggered a lawsuit by the Pacific Justice Institute. The suit argues that the zoning code in the city, and their refusal to allow New Harvest to use their property, is a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Specifically, it says that the city is treating New Harvest “on less than equal terms with nonreligious assemblies and substantially burden religious exercise.”
A District Court in northern California ruled in favor of the city, saying on May 29 that the Church generates “limited interest” and doesn’t bring in tourists, which detracts from the stated goals of the city. They claim that the reason the land use ordinance exists is to “stimulate commercial activity” in the downtown area because of its recent state of decline, and to “establish a pedestrian-friendly, active and vibrant Main Street.”
In short, the city doesn’t want churches taking up spaces that trendy bars or coffee shops can take up instead or something.
The Court recognized that the weekly activities at New Harvest “includes a Sunday morning worship service (including a worship band) and programs for children and teens/tweens; a Tuesday evening worship service, ‘Fun Club’ for children ages 3-4, and boys’ ministries (which alternate weekly between two different age groups; a Thursday evening worship band rehearsal’ a Friday evening prayer meeting’ and a women’s Bible study on some Saturday mornings.”
Despite all this vibrant activity…it’s just not the right kind of vibrance. And that’s that. The church must now leave the downtown area and find somewhere new for its growing congregation.