Wednesday, the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court, supporting the Tree of Life Christian School in their Supreme Court case; Tree of Life Christian School v City of Upper Arlington.
In 2001, the city of Upper Arlington decided that it needed to increase tax revenues from businesses located within the city. To that end, they outlined a “Master Plan” in which all land in certain areas of the city could only be used by organizations from which the city could collect taxes.
In 2010, the Tree of Life Christian School purchased an office building within the city with the intention of developing it into a pre-kindergarten-12th-grade school. Though they were allowed to purchase the land, they were barred from actually creating the school. The city defended their decision by stating that, as a Christian school, it would be tax-exempt and therefore would not generate revenue for the city. Following this, the Tree of Life filed suit against the city.
The school, among other claims, alleges that the city is in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which provides that “No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.” By prioritizing tax revenues above all other considerations, a city could effectively bar any religious institution from establishing itself within its jurisdiction.
Aaron Baer, President of Citizens from Community Values stated:
Upper Arlington’s actions are nothing less than discrimination. The idea that a city could block a private organization from using their property in a lawful manner, merely because the city wants to milk more money out of the land, is terrifying and un-American. The Supreme Court must take up this case to end this injustice.
The Supreme Court has not yet set a date to hear the trial.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].