BLOGSupreme Court Declines to Hear Case of Christian School Barred from Using Its Building for 8 Years

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | May 13, 2019

Tree of Life Christian Schools sends 99 percent of its graduates to college.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Would you want to send your child to school there? I know I would.

And that’s how a lot of people in the Columbus, Ohio, area feel. As the only Christian school in the area that offers pre-K through high school, the demand has only increased.

Yet, when Tree of Life purchased a larger building in Upper Arlington, Ohio, to consolidate its three campuses, improve its facilities, and double its enrollment, the city stood in its way. And the city has continued to stand in its way for the past eight years – forcing Tree of Life to turn away students from its Bible-based education due to space restrictions.

Unfortunately today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Tree of Life’s case. This allows a lower court ruling, upholding the city’s actions, to stand.

Across three different campuses, Tree of Life serves a diverse student body. Its nearly 600 students come from 18 nations, and 44 percent of its students are from minority populations. It also serves students from a variety of economic backgrounds – 25 percent receive financial aid through the school, and 39 percent participate in the state’s voucher program for low-income families that live near a failing local school.

You would think that the city would want to encourage a school like Tree of Life.

But Upper Arlington officials have claimed that zoning laws do not permit Tree of Life to operate in the building it purchased.

There’s just one (big) problem with this – which is why Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit on Tree of Life’s behalf.

You see, Upper Arlington’s zoning code allowed for daycare facilities and other nonprofit uses of the buildings in that same area. The only difference is that Tree of Life is a Christian school rather than a secular nonprofit. This is not only unfair, but also in violation of federal law – which prohibits the government from using its zoning rules to treat religious groups worse than secular groups.

The city has also tried to claim that the school would not bring in enough tax revenue.

But by not allowing Tree of Life to move into its new building, the city has missed out on roughly $1 million in tax revenue. It’s also missed out on the roughly 150 new jobs the school’s expansion would create.

More important, the City’s zoning code says nothing about tax revenue. A secular use that generated far less tax revenue than Tree of Life would still be allowed, while the City says that Tree of Life is not welcome. What’s more, the longer Tree of Life is barred from moving into its new building, the more kids will be turned away from the school.

The reality is that by refusing to allow Tree of Life to use its building, the city and its residents are losing money – and, more importantly, children are losing out on receiving an education at Tree of Life Christian Schools.

These kids should not be treated as second-class citizens simply because of where they attend school. They deserve the same opportunities as their peers.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court declined to make this clear.

The good news is that ADF remains dedicated to ensuring that the government does not discriminate against people of faith or treat us as second-class citizens. And be assured that Tree of Life remains committed to serving its surrounding community.

Please continue to pray for Tree of Life Christian Schools as it determines how to move forward in order to serve as many students as possible, educating them in God’s truth and making them disciples of Christ.

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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