Judge Says California City Can Ban Churches to Keep Downtown “Fun”

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For the better part of the last millennia, towns centered around the local church in Christian-majority countries.

While the modern Western world is packed with churches of all sizes and denominations, major American and European cities still often feature prominent historic churches that are popular tourist destinations, from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to Westminster in London to Notre Dame in Paris, all located in bustling city centers.

In the city of Salinas, California, however, a judge has just ruled that the city has the right to keep churches out of their downtown center for the sake of maintaining “fun.”

It wasn’t that long ago that our constitutional republic recognized that there were far more important things in civic life than “fun.”

No more, apparently.

Fox News reports:

A federal court in the San Francisco Bay Area ruled an evangelical church does not contribute to a city’s goals of a vibrant and fun atmosphere, and therefore can be excluded from operating in downtown Salinas, Calif.

The New Harvest Christian Fellowship, a church that rented space along Salinas’ Main Street for more than 25 years, purchased a building on that same street in 2018.

The church intended to use the first floor as a worship center, but the city intervened.

The church, represented by the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), argued the city’s treatment was unfair under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, allowing theaters and entertainment venues, as well as nursing homes and post offices.

On May 29, however, the court sided with the city, saying the church generates limited interest. It does not draw tourists, the court said, and therefore detracts from the city’s goals of “vibrancy” as well as a “street of fun,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California wrote.

Kevin Snider, the chief counsel for PJI and lead attorney in the case, told Fox News in a statement after the ruling that the City of Salinas “deems churches as less deserving of equal treatment under the law than the live children’s theatre, two cinemas, and event center” downtown.

“Since the lower court’s decision, ironically downtown Salinas has experienced a lively pedestrian street scene in the form of protests,” Snider added. “Those types of assemblies may not be the fun City officials were hoping for to replace churches.”

“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,” said PJI President Brad Dacus, according to WND.

While this case is now in the court system, it is first and foremost a result of eroded national regard for the importance of faith and the First Amendment, which is a cultural problem.

Politics are downstream from culture. Consider the mainstream political culture of our nation. It heavily favors far-left secular humanist views. Churches don’t get kicked out of cities overnight, they have been shunned from the public realm for decades, and in no small part due to Christians who have been willing to quietly and politely remove themselves from the public realm out of fear of causing offense.

If we’d like to see a major turnaround in our culture, it is time for us to stop being afraid, and start speaking up for what is right, and true, and moral. Preach the word, minister to the poor and downtrodden, and don’t, for one moment, let anyone shut you up! It’s time for revival in this nation. Will you be His hands and feet?

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