Court Backs Religious Center in Zoning Dispute

     LANSING, Mich. (CN) – A faith-based day care center was wrongfully denied a zoning variance to operate in the same space where a secular day-care center was located, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled.

     Shepherd Montessori Center Milan appealed after Ann Arbor Charter Township denied its variance. The court ruled for the second time that the denial placed a substantial burden on the school’s religious exercise.
     After the appeals court’s first ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case, asking the appeals court to consider last year’s ruling in Greater Bible Way Temple of Jackson v. City of Jackson. That ruling did not change Judge Saad’s mind.
     “Greater Bible Way did not involve an equal protection claim,” Saad wrote, “and therefore the legal analysis in that case did not affect our holding.
     “Defendants conceded that plaintiffs and Rainbow Rascals (the secular school) are similarly situated,” the judge added, “and defendants failed to offer a reason for refusing to permit plaintiff to operate its school in the same space that Rainbow Rascals operated its day care program.”

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