No Religious Use of Community Center say Housing Commissioners -- Judge Temporarily Blocks Decision
Contact: Walton T. Smith IV, Pastor of New Life Family Church, 313-646-0064; Richard Mack, Esq. of Miller Cohen P.L.C., 313-645-2095
DETROIT, June 20 /Christian Newswire/ -- The following is being issued by Miller Cohen P.L.C.: On June 15, 2007, a Wayne County Circuit Judge blocked a decision of the City of River Rouge Housing Commission to deny a church the use of a community center. The Housing Commission did this chiefly because the church used the Center for religious worship. The Court's Order enjoined this practice, as it is a clear violation of the constitutional protections of religious worship. The next Court hearing will be June 28, 2007, at 11:00 am, before Judge Cynthia Stephens.
Since April 2007, New Life Family Church and Pastor Welton T. Smith IV, had been renting the Center for worship services every Sunday. The Housing Commission operates the center. Once it learned of New Life's worship services, the Commission initiated official action to stop any religious worship at the Center.
The Commission's general counsel, however, issued a written legal opinion, stating: "it is my opinion that the Housing Commission cannot prohibit the rental and use of the Community Center for religious services on Sunday mornings" and that denial of New Life's use of the Center, because of its religious worship, would likely violate the state and federal constitutions. The Commissioners still blocked all religious worship there.
Even worse, New Life Family Church had signed a contract with River Rouge to use the Community Center on Sunday, June 17th, and had even paid for that day. The Housing Commission breached the contract and still blocked the church from using the Center that day, just three short days before Sunday service. The Commission did not even offer a return of the church's money that was paid for the rental. But for the Court's injunction order on Friday, June 15th, New Life would have been without a place to worship that following Sunday.
Pastor Smith was gratified with the Court's temporary order: "I thank God! Without this order, we would have had nowhere to worship this past Sunday. Where would the 70-plus attendees go, many of whom are without transportation, and walk to church?" Deacon Board Chair Keith White said it should not have happened: "the Housing Commission members had been advised against it, but for whatever reason they still wanted to stop our worship service at this Center, when other groups have routinely been allowed to rent the facility. This is wrong, and must be stopped."
Richard Mack, attorney for the Plaintiffs, was stunned: "This is 2007, and this blatantly lawless behavior is truly shocking. The very first amendment in our nation's Constitution was written with this exact situation in mind; preventing politicians and the government from suppressing religious worship. The Commission was so bold as to ignore their own attorney's advice. The Commissioners must account for this action at the June 28th hearing."