Three-acre minimum - that was what New Generation Christian Church in Rockdale County, Georgia was told it must buy if it wanted access to property for its worship services.
Yes. Three acres…Minimum.
Apparently officials in Rockdale County haven’t read Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Odd … Jesus didn’t say anything about a minimum amount of land. I mean, could you imagine three people needing three acres of land to worship the Lord? That may be a little too much.
So you can imagine the dilemma for New Generation Christian Church, a small, startup church that could not afford three acres of land. After being denied permission to use several different properties for its worship services, the church was forced to meet in the inadequate basement of a jewelry store.
That’s right. The church was forced underground right here in the United States. And, during this time, sports facilities, daycare centers, libraries, performing arts centers, recreational clubs, and educational institutions did not face the same restriction. Does that sound like religious freedom to you?
Apparently, Rockdale County’s zoning code restricted churches from meeting on property less than three acres in any zoning district but did not restrict other groups.
But all that changed after Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys filed suit against Rockdale County on behalf of New Generation Christian Church in June 2012.
Now, just over two years later, the county agreed to settle, revising its zoning regulations and paying the church $15,000 in damages and $15,000 in attorneys’ fees. As ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley states, “There’s no legitimate reason to require churches to have a minimum of three acres of property. Federal law prohibits saddling churches with these kinds of unjustifiable, targeted zoning restrictions. We commend the county for changing its regulations so that small ministries can afford properties appropriate for their size.”
With this settlement, New Generation Christian Church can continue to grow, worship the Lord, and serve the local community, and it won’t need at least three acres do so. But the battle for religious freedom continues. If you or your church has been denied religious freedom, click here to request legal help to see how our network of attorneys may be able to assist you.
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