The Alliance Defense Fund and allied attorneys secured a consent order and partial dismissal Thursday on behalf of Kingdom First Ministries in a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, which has entered into a settlement with the church. The city has agreed to change its unconstitutional ordinance that put undue and burdensome restrictions upon the church, nearly forcing it to permanently close its doors.
“Zoning restrictions should not be designed by a city to discriminate against churches,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman, who is serving as local counsel in the case. “We are pleased with the city’s decision to allow Kingdom First to freely worship in its facility. The city now recognizes that federal law does not permit it to put its desire for property tax revenue above a church’s right to meet in a facility it rightfully occupies.”
Kingdom First Ministries leased property in November 2007 in an area of Atlanta’s West End that was zoned for churches. While applying for a business license the next month, the church was told the area had been rezoned and that therefore the church must apply for a special use permit. The church applied for the permit, but the city subsequently denied it.
“Kingdom First’s property was illegally zoned to exclude churches by the city of Atlanta,” said ADF-allied attorney John Mauck, of the Chicago law firm Mauck & Baker, LLC. “But we are grateful that the city’s attorneys were eager to rectify the unlawful situation once it was brought to their attention by allowing the church to meet, changing the ordinance, and providing compensation for its damages.”
Kingdom First spent thousands of dollars to lease and furnish its West End building. With the severe drop in attendance at the substandard facility it was forced to use for nearly a year after it began leasing the building, the church had to cancel most of its ministries and was on the verge of shutting down.
In October 2008, ADF attorneys were issued a previous consent order, which allowed the church to open its doors after nearly a year of the city’s resistance.
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