Haven Shores Community Church v. City of Grand Haven, Michigan

Image: Haven Shores Community Church v. City of Grand Haven, Michigan

In a settlement reached on December 20, 2000, the City of Grand Haven, Michigan agreed that a small local storefront church could occupy a storefront after all. It was the first case resolved under the terms of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).

Haven Shores Community Church signed a lease for a storefront property in Grand Haven in May of 1999, but when Rev. David Bailey went to apply for building permit to modify the space, he was told by city officials that religious meetings and worship were not permitted at that location under city zoning laws. Even though Grand Haven’s zoning ordinance for the “B-1 Community Business District” specifically allows for “private clubs,” “fraternal organizations,” “lodge halls,” “funeral homes,” “theaters,” and “assembly halls” or similar places of public assembly,  the church’s claim that it too was a “place of public assembly” was rejected by multiple city offices, including the City Council.

On March 13, 2000, the Becket Fund filed suit in federal district court on behalf of the church, charging that the city had violated their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, religion, assembly, due process and equal protection of the laws.

However, when President Clinton signed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) on September 22, 2000, The Becket Fund was able to immediately file an amended complaint in the case,seeking relief under RLUIPA.  After the RLUIPA claims were filed, attorneys for The Becket Fund and the City of Grand Haven agreed to a consent judgment that settled the case in favor of Haven Shores.  Now there is a church alongside the funeral homes, theaters and assembly halls of Haven Shores.

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