Canton Church: Religious Freedom vs. Zoning Laws

Canton Church: Religious Freedom vs. Zoning Laws

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The village of Canton says Christian Fellowship Center is jumping the gun in asking a federal judge for a preliminary injunction. The church wants to be worshiping at the The Club former restaurant as soon as this weekend.

“They are seeking a type of relief that a party typically would seek to recover at the end of a lawsuit that might take a year or 18 months,” said Gregg Johnson, lawyer for the village of Canton.

The church paid $310,000 for the The Club in January. The village maintains it's simply upholding current zoning in forbidding church services there. But on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice came out in support of the church.

“DOJ lawyers put together a 10-page legal brief addressing the various points of law...Our case, Christian Fellowship Center, we do have a right to use this building to worship Jesus,” said Jamie Sinclair, Christian Fellowship Center Canton pastor.

The DOJ has been filing similar “friend-of-the-court” briefs across the nation. It supported a cake maker citing religious beliefs in refusing to serve same-sex couples. The Supreme Court decided in the baker's favor. 

In the Canton case, a lawyer for the church says an injunction is needed.

“More quickly we resolve the case the less damages there are to the church and the less Canton may have to pay,” said John Mauck, lawyer for Christian Fellowship Center. 

The former Club restaurant has stood empty for months and months, but it's beginning to show signs of life as the Christian Fellowship Center begins sprucing up inside.

The village has given the church certificates of occupancy for offices and a restaurant, but not to worship there.

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