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Supreme Court Declines To Hear Christian School's Case Against Upper Arlington

Dan Keck

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal involving Upper Arlington and a local Christian school trying to move into a building zoned for commercial use.

Tree of Life Christian Schools purchased the former AOL/Time Warner building in 2010, even though Upper Arlington officials were resisting the school’s rezoning efforts. The city argues the office building is its “last jewel of commercial development opportunity,” and handing it over to school would forgo income tax revenue it needs.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati found against Tree of Life last September. In its ruling, the court determined the school failed to show discrimination against its rezoning application, and that Upper Arlington’s consideration of tax revenue was a legitimate basis for zoning decisions.

According to its website, Tree of Life is not directly operated by one specific church, but lists seven local Christian churches as its sponsors. 

The case hinged on equal treatment provisions in a 2000 law known as the "Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act." Religious organizations from across the spectrum weighed in to support the school.

Tree of Life argues it is being treated unfairly because the city would allow non-profits or day care centers in the zoning area.

“The government can’t say ‘yes’ to daycare centers and other nonprofit uses of property but say ‘no’ to a Christian school,” writes John Bursch of the religious legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom in a press release. 

The organization is representing the school in the case.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.