Local Governments Make Growth Difficult
for Several Religious Ministries

Recently, several religious organizations across the nation have faced unreasonable opposition from their local governments.

New Milford, CT

In New Milford, CT members of a local prayer meeting felt great opposition from the community for their activity. Several members stopped attending the prayer group in the home of one of its members for fear that they would be arrested for participating in an unauthorized gathering which had received a "cease and desist order" from local authorities.

Finally, in early July, U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly B Fitzsimmons declared the town’s behavior toward the religious group to be illegal under a 2000 federal law entitled the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) which forbids the government from placing zoning or other restrictions on a group that would create a "substantial burden" on their religious express.

While opponents of Judge Fitzsimmons’ decision are working to overturn her ruling, many Christians are now eager to work for the passage of a replacement for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 that was declared unconstitutional in 1997 by the Supreme Court.

Denver, CO

In Denver, CO Mike Ware, pastor of Victory Church, has been under attack from the city to build a church that will fit his growing congregation. After his 1,500 member church announced their desire to expand their facilities, the church came under heavy attack in the community. One opponent even fired a shotgun into the construction site of the new edition.

According to Ware, "We don’t want to make an issue of it; we’re just trying to be good neighbors." But, the community is certainly not sympathetic to the church’s need for expansion. Already a letter writing campaign has begun to try to stop the new construction. Once the trouble began, Victory Church discovered that they were not alone in their struggle. Fourteen other pastors joined to meet with Denver officials concerning the unfair treatment of their ministries. After learning of the growing difficulty, Ware stated, "We discovered almost every church had a story to tell of how they ran into trouble and were not treated with respect by the city."

Mike Ware and his church members are considering a lawsuit against the community based on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Until then, their ministry will continue its attempts for a peaceful expansion.

("Expanding Churches in the West Face Growing Hostility," Christians Unite, August 1, 2001; "Prayer Meeting Ban Lifted," The Washington Times, July 20, 2001; "Expanding Church Hostility," Charisma News Service, July 18, 2001; "Limiting Bible Studies," Religion Today, June 10, 2001)

 

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