Churches too noisy?
Three years ago, a Jewish congregation sought to purchase an 11-acre property in the Philadelphia suburbs to build a synagogue. Neighbors protested the plan, citing heavy traffic, noise, and pollution. The zoning board agreed and blocked the purchase.
Yesterday the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supported the Abington Township decision, saying that towns may legally prohibit churches and temples in residential neighborhoods for concerns of noise and traffic.
"Abington had come up with an innovative way to handle the difficult issue of what to do with these churches and synagogues that have become 24-hour service operators," Marci Hamilton, a township attorney, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "They've said, 'No more in residential districts. It's too intense of a use.' And that's been upheld."
A 1996 Abington Township zoning board ordinance permits only agriculture, single-family, conservation, and recreation use within Abington's R-1 residential districts. Special permits have been given to a riding academy, a kennel, a municipal complex, and emergency services. Under a 1992 Abington zoning guidelines, churches, hospitals, and schools must be built in nonresidential areas.
Yesterday's decision reversed a 2001 district ruling in which the judge struck down Abington's 1996 zoning law and ordered the township to let the congregation apply for a special exception.
The 3rd Circuit's three-judge panel said yesterday that large religious bodies often create traffic problems. "The facts of this case illustrate why religious uses may be, in some cases, incompatible with a place of 'quiet seclusion,'" the opinion states. "We do not believe land use planners can assume any more that religious uses are inherently compatible with family and residential uses."
The U.S. District Court will now hear the case again. "They've sent this case back to the district court to develop a factual record," an attorney for the congregation told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I don't think the township should get too confident. We've still got six ways from Sunday to win this case."
According to The Inquirer, the case is one of more than 30 cases now in the courts challenging the constitutionality of the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits religious bias in zoning decisions.
Pope's 24th anniversary:
- John Paul begins 25th year as pope | 30,000 pilgrims and tourists cheered as John Paul, one of the longest serving pontiffs, arrived in St. Peter's Square. (Associated Press)
- Pope hints he plans to stay `until the end' | He asks Virgin Mary to give him strength to continue his mission "until the end" and by adding to his favorite devotion, the rosary. (Chicago Tribune)
- Also: Pope wants to reign until his death | 82-year-old pontiff says so in ceremony marking his 24th year. (MSNBC)
- John Paul II's school friends meet to remember Karol Wojtyla as a boy on anniversary of his election (Associated Press)
- Group seeks to stop Islamic event | Organization that sued to stop the University of North Carolina from assigning freshmen a book on the Quran is now taking aim at the school's plans to hold an Islamic awareness week (Associated Press)
- Daring leaps of faith | It's not easy to convert from Islam to Christianity. (The Washington Times)
- World Evangelical Alliance supports Jewish evangelism | Reissues Willowbank declaration. (Associated Press)
- Unorthodox alliance | Israeli and Jewish interests are better served by keeping a polite distance from the Christian right. (Gershom Gorenberg, The Washington Post)
Prayer and spirituality:
- Time of fear, words of comfort | After Shootings, Religious Leaders Use Sermons to Soothe Faithful (The Washington Post)
- Practicing religion while on the go | Anecdotal evidence suggests an increasing number of business travelers are taking steps to lead more spiritual lives while in the sky. (The New York Times)
Politics and law:
- White House staffers gather for Bible study | Voluntary meetings embrace president's emphasis on faith. (USA Today)
- When prayer and politics collide | With less than a month before the Nov. 5 elections, candidates are going to church. (Gromer Jeffers Jr, The Dallas Morning News)
- Moore's grandiose baby steps | Today, we seem to have a national cadre looking to "restore the moral foundation of American law" (Kaffie Sledge, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)
Sex abuse scandal:
- Australia archbishop cleared of abuse (BBC)
- Some specialists see problems in bishops' policy | Say abuse plan may compromise priests' rights (The Boston Globe)
- Out of 'zero tolerance,' new support for priests | Some groups are alarmed by what they view as opportunistic attempts by Catholic liberals to use the scandal to press for far-reaching innovations (The Washington Post)
- Citing Vatican II, laity seeks change | In the midst of the biggest crisis in the history of Catholicism in America, many laypeople are claiming the mantle of reform, demanding a role in reshaping a church that failed to stop the sexual abuse of thousands of young people over a period of decades (The Boston Globe)
- Vatican expected OK U.S. abuse policy | Cardinal Francis George of Chicago says waiver from church law expected (Associated Press)
- Accused priests pose dilemma for church and public | Most removed priests live anonymously and unsupervised in communities where, according to experts, they may be at risk of reoffending (The Boston Globe)
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