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Church turns to higher authority in zoning battle

from The Wall Street Journal

Sundays at Faith Fellowship Church, Pastor Gary Mortara calls on God's help to heal the sick, repair torn marriages and rescue lost souls. But when city officials here rejected plans to move his growing congregation to a bigger building, Mortara turned to another authority: the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In April, the court, in San Francisco, answered his prayers, ruling that San Leandro may have violated federal law by refusing to amend its zoning code to accommodate the Pentecostal congregation. It was a broad reading of a 2000 law giving religious groups the power to ask courts to set aside land-use regulations they believe interfere with their expression of faith, and it now stands as precedent throughout the Ninth Circuit, a nine-state region sprawling from Montana to Hawaii. more


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