Pricing Churches Out of the Market

Inside the Issues with Alan Sears


Alan Sears, Esquire
ADF President, CEO, & General Counsel

April 7, 2009

Not every persecution against Christians takes the form of brutal violence or even legal haranguing.  Often, persecution is simply a quiet discrimination – and yet, in the end, the aim is the same.  Someone wants Christians to be quiet…to stop meeting…to have less influence in the community.

That's apparently the aim of local authorities in the village of Fife Lake, near Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Officials of the village council have graciously made the town's Municipal Building meeting room available for free to local community organizations like the American Legion, Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, and the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

The grace runs dry, however, when it comes to the Forest Area Bible Church, which has also asked permission to meet in the room.  In its case, officials have decided to charge rent.

For 18 months, the church paid the required fees.  But in the changing economic client, the rent has become prohibitively expensive for the little congregation, and they are no longer able to pay it.  With the public room now closed to them, and no other suitable alternative, the church has stopped meeting.

Clearly, the only significant difference between the church and the other community organizations that are given free access to the room is the fact that the church's activities are religious.  Whether the village officials' position stems from a legitimate misunderstanding of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, or whether they are only hiding their own anti-religion biases behind that legal falsehood, the results are the same:  the religious liberties of the members of Forest Area Bible Church are being obstructed.

So, attorneys of the Alliance Defense Fund have filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the church.

"Christian groups should not be discriminated against for their beliefs," said ADF Legal Counsel Tim Chandler. "The fee schedule unfairly targets churches and religious organizations while allowing other community groups to meet free of charge. It's obviously unfair, and the courts have repeatedly held that type of practice to be unconstitutional."

You can view the complaint filed by ADF attorneys here.

Please be in prayer for the pastor and members of Forest Area Bible Church, as they try to maintain their fellowship and witness to their community while seeking alternative sites for worship.  And pray for all the churches, nationwide, that are facing this kind of subtle persecution.