Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2021 / 07:58 am
A Catholic organization is suing a Michigan township after it was denied permission to build a chapel and prayer trail dedicated to St. Pio of Pietrelcina on land it already acquired.
The group, Catholic Healthcare International (CHI), is alleging that Genoa Township, located in Livingston County, Michigan, is violating its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The group had wished to build a 95-seat chapel, along with a Stations of the Cross path and an image of Santa Maria delle Grazie, on land that they acquired from the Diocese of Lansing.
The township board rejected Catholic Healthcare International’s plans by a 5-2 vote on May 3.
The American Freedom Law Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of CHI. Robert Muise, the center’s co-founder and senior counsel, said in a statement that places of 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,” Muise stated.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on June 2, the proposed chapel, parking spaces, and prayer trail did not violate any of the township’s zoning laws. The Stations of the Cross, the suit claims, would not be visible from the street.
The suit claims that CHI only planned on developing about five acres of the 40-acre property, and that efforts would be made to preserve the “peaceful, rural nature” of the area.
“The Township’s denial of the Final Submission was not based on any measurable, objective criteria,” the lawsuit stated, alleging that it was instead “based upon amorphous, subjective considerations that were contrary to the facts and which permit an anti-religious/anti-Catholic animus to drive the Township’s decision.”