Jump directly to the Content


A new legal landscape faces churches that want to build.

For over three hundred years, church steeples have stood as landmarks in the center of cities and villages across this country. Today, however, many municipal officials are doing whatever they can to keep churches out of town.

In 1936 Edward M. Bassett, a principal author of the first modern municipal zoning law adopted by the City of New York in 1916, wrote a book titled Zoning. For years city planners regarded it as a classic text on the municipal regulation of land.

When that landmark resolution was drafted, Bassett wrote, it did not occur to its creators "that there was the remotest possibility churches, schools, and hospitals could properly be excluded from any districts."

In 1949, however, the California Court of Appeals ruled that municipalities could ban churches from residential areas. Both the California State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court refused to review that decision. Today many communities reject church applications for building permits in a residentially ...

Support Our Work

Subscribe to CT for less than $4.25/month

Homepage Subscription Panel

Read These Next

We Couldn't Stay Silent
We Couldn't Stay Silent
Love compelled our church to get involved with the immigration issue.
From the Magazine
Cambodian Spies Were Watching Me. So Was Someone Else.
Cambodian Spies Were Watching Me. So Was Someone Else.
After escaping the Khmer Rouge with my siblings, I learned who had been protecting me all along.
Editor's Pick
To Be a Pastor Is to Know Betrayal
To Be a Pastor Is to Know Betrayal
Apprenticing Jesus in a cruciform call.