The city of Salinas, California, is forcing an evangelical Christian church to sell its downtown property, saying it does not fit in with the new look of the town.
New Harvest Christian Fellowship bought the building in early 2018 after its congregation outgrew a space the church had been renting for more than 25 years. A new city ordinance, however, prohibits houses of worship from occupying the first floor of downtown buildings, the Christian Post reports.
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the church, arguing that the City’s zoning code and denial of New Harvest’s proposed use of its property “treat New Harvest on less than equal terms with nonreligious assemblies and substantially burden religious exercise, in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).”
A northern California U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the city of Salinas, declaring on May 29 that churches generate limited interest, do not draw tourists, and therefore detract from the city’s stated goals.
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