This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
Religious worship has returned to a Michigan property owned by Catholic Healthcare International after a court ruling that was sought when Genoa Charter Township, where the land is located, banned such activities there.
A report from the American Freedom Law Center explained the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of CHI and against Genoa township on CHI's request for a preliminary injunction.
That decision means the organization once again can use its 40 acre parcel for "religiously symbolic structures," such as the Stations of the Cross," the image of Our Lady of Grace and more."
The township's ruling earlier also had banned "organized gatherings," or religious worship, on the land.
It was back in 2021 when township officials "banned CHI from using the property for these religious purposes," the law center explained.
But now, the appeals court said the displays must be allowed.
"On this glorious day in Michigan, CHI held an outdoor mass in honor of St. Pio and in thanksgiving for the return of CHI’s fundamental right to religious freedom, the legal team said.
The lawyers explained the background of the fight:
The township has also banned the construction of a modest, 95-seat adoration chapel (the St. Pio Chapel) on CHI’s property. This fight continues. The township feigned concern that the small chapel with its 39-space parking lot will cause traffic issues, even though the Township’s Planning Commission, the Livingston County Road Commission, and the township’s own consultants approved the project prior to the Township Board’s rejection of it in May of 2021. Meanwhile, the township has its own park about three miles from this property with over 200 parking spaces."
Now, the law center warned, that litigation would continue unless township officials are able to acknowledge that religious freedom is a fundamental right, and CHI is allowed to finish its plans for a prayer campus.
"Indeed, the township’s overt attack on religion is shocking. And it is coming at great expense to its taxpayers as the township will be liable for CHI’s attorneys’ fees and costs (in addition to the costs and fees its own attorneys are billing the township) should CHI ultimately prevail (and based on the Sixth Circuit ruling, it is certainly looking that way)."
WND reported two years ago when the situation developed when the Catholic group wanted to use five of its 40 acres for a chapel.
The case alleged violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Michigan Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by the township and Sharon Stone, the ordinance officer.
"Our nation was founded by religious refugees in search of religious freedom," explained AFLC Senior Counsel Robert Muise at the time, "Consequently, places of religious worship, such as CHI's proposed St. Pio Chapel and prayer campus, hold a special place in America. The township's rejection of our clients' right to religious worship on CHI's private property is not in keeping with our proud tradition of accommodating people of faith, and, in fact, it violates our clients' fundamental rights protected by the United States and Michigan Constitutions and federal statutory law.”
The proposal rejected by the township was for the site to hold a chapel, the St. Pio Chapel, which would hold 95 people, along with a parking lot for 39 vehicles.
"This case represents the hostility Jewish and Christian groups now face in America," explained AFLC co-founder David Yerushalmi, an Orthodox Jew, at the beginning of the case. "When Jews or Christians seek to modestly employ their religious liberty, they are subject to unlawful denials and restrictions. The last refuge of liberty must be the courts . . . because if not, civil society is no longer."