ADF files federal suit against Ohio city for blocking Christian school from using its own building

Upper Arlington’s problematic zoning code blocks Christian school but would allow daycare facility, other similar uses
Wednesday, January 05, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Tree of Life Christian Schools against the city of Upper Arlington after it refused to grant the school a permit to use its own new building. The lawsuit challenges a zoning regulation that prohibits schools within the zone but permits daycare facilities and many other similar uses.

“No city should use its zoning code to keep a Christian school’s students in inferior and overcrowded facilities. A city’s zoning code cannot give preferential treatment to non-religious institutions that function similarly to a Christian school,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “Upper Arlington will allow a daycare facility of any size to occupy a building in this zone, but it won’t allow this school. Federal law specifically prohibits zoning officials from subjecting religious organizations to this type of unequal treatment.”

In order to consolidate its four overcrowded campuses holding 660 students in the Columbus area, Tree of Life Christian Schools purchased the former America Online/Time-Warner building in Upper Arlington. The building would allow the school to grow to 1,300 students, but city officials refused to allow the school to apply for zoning approval even though the city’s zoning law would allow daycare facilities and other similar uses of equal size.

If approved, the school would provide more than 150 new jobs to the city as well as tax revenue greater than what has been realized from the vacant site in many years.

Under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, government officials are barred from subjecting religious ministries to unequal treatment in zoning laws.

The lawsuit Tree of Life Christian Schools v. City of Upper Arlington was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.