City BANS CHURCH from Outreach to Kids . . . on Its Own Property!

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from Liberty Institute,

In July 2014, the City of Auburn sent a cease-and-desist order demanding that the First Presbyterian Church of Auburn, New York stop their outreach to the kids in their community through a Glee Camp on church property! The City said that since the camp charged a fee for its summer Glee Camp it violated the city’s zoning ordinances.

From its campus within an R-2 Residential Zoning District, First Presbyterian Church has conducted on its property many outreach programs—including hosting veterans groups, prayer groups, grief support groups, youth and marriage retreats, and music festivals—to the surrounding community where the church has been located since 1975.

One of the church buildings is a 36,000 square-foot mansion that was constructed by Theodore Case, the inventor of sound recordings placed on film. When the home, which sat adjacent to the church’s property, became available for purchase, First Presbyterian Church saw this as an opportunity to acquire the home and expand the congregation’s outreach to the surrounding community.

For the past three years, First Presbyterian Church has donated this part of its campus to host a musical theater summer camp—Glee Camp—to serve the community’s local children and their families. In order to offset costs of instructors and materials for the three-week-long session that includes singing, dancing, and acting classes, young campers paid a fee. The church made no profit from hosting the Glee Camp and, in fact, lost money.

At a hearing this past Wednesday, February 4, 2015, Liberty Institute argued that the city’s unlawful enforcement action should be dismissed because it violates the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA). Auburn City Court Judge David B. Thurston took the case under advisement and a decision is forthcoming.

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