Love Thy Neighbor:
Churches and Land Use Regulation
Robert W. Tuttle
Consider the following three cases:
In 1983, Cornerstone Bible Church formed and began to hold worship services in the home of its pastor. As the congregation grew, it moved first to the local high school and then leased space for worship in an office building located in the city's central business district. When the city's planning director learned of the church's move, he ordered the church to stop using the office building for worship services: the city's zoning ordinance excludes religious uses from commercial districts. The church then started to look for other worship space. It attempted to purchase a former theater, also located in the business district, but the city denied the church permission to use the theater for religious services. The congregation met with the same response in several other attempts to convert commercial space into a church. The city argued that religious uses would interfere with economic development of the central business district, and that churches were free to locate in residential zones, which made up nearly half the city. The church claimed that it could find no suitable sites in the residential areas, which were already well developed, and sued for permission to locate in the commercial zone.
Western Presbyterian Church, located just blocks from the White House, sponsored a feeding ministry that served breakfast to homeless men and women. In 1989, the International Monetary Fund and the church exchanged parcels of property: the IMF wanted to expand onto the church's site, so the IMF agreed