A church in California is being forced to move out due to a city ordinance that prohibits places of worship from occupying the first floor of downtown buildings.
The city of Salinas claims to aim at "stimulating commercial activity within the city's downtown, which had been in a state of decline, and to establish a pedestrian-friendly, active and vibrant Main Street."
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bay Area federal court stood by the city of Salinas and ruled that the church does not align with the city's goals of vibrancy by effectuating limited interest and not attracting tourists.
Susan Van Keulen, the Magistrate Judge of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, confirmed that the ruling did not violate the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Pearsons Act, which is a law that protects places of worship from discrimination in zoning laws.
The Pacific Justice Institute filed a lawsuit against this ruling on behalf of New Harvest Christian Fellowship, which rented space for their congregation along Main Street in Salinas for more than 25 years.
The lead attorney and Chief Counsel of the Pacific Justice Institute, Kevin Snider argues, "Salinas deems churches as less deserving of equal treatment under the law than the live children's theatre, two cinemas, and event center that share the city's downtown corridor with New Harvest Fellowship."
Brad Dacus, the President of the Pacific Justice Institute pointed out the injustice towards churches in a statement, "This continues to be one of the most striking examples of unequal treatment of a church in the land use context that we have seen in the past 20 years."
"We have appealed this case to the Ninth Circuit, and we are optimistic that a different result will be reached upon review by a higher court," the Pacific Justice Institute expressed their hope.