Appeals Court Grants Injunction for Catholic Organization After City Forced Removal of ‘Religious Displays’
The group ‘is a religious organization whose mission is to further the work of Saint Padre Pio—the patron saint of healing.’
A federal appeals court ordered an injunction in favor of a Catholic organization after a Michigan city forced the group to remove “religious displays” from a “prayer trail.” The appeals court found the group was “likely to succeed on the merits of its claim.”
The injunction allows the group to restore the religious displays as litigation continues in the lower court.
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), which represents the group, praised the decision. AFLC attorney Robert Muise told Legal Insurrection the Catholic organization is “in the process of restoring the religious symbols.”
The injunction came amid a yearslong land-use dispute between Catholic Healthcare International (CHI) and the Genoa Charter Township, which imposed a special land-use permit requirement for the prayer trail structures.
In 2020, CHI sought city approval for a prayer trail consisting of a stone altar, mural, and Stations of the Cross trail markers (pictured).The appeals court decision noted that “a few miles away” from CHI exists a comparable secular trail depicting “Leopold the Lion,” for which the city did not require a special land-use permit.
The dispute began when city planners informed CHI the city regarded “the prayer trail as a church” building that needed “special land use and site plan approval.”
CHI President Jere Palazzolo expressed surprise at the complexity of the approval process and asked the city to reconsider its decision to require a special land-use permit.
When the city refused to budge, CHI “proceeded to create the prayer trail anyway,” and the city demanded CHI remove the structures.
CHI sued the city in 2021, arguing the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the United States and Michigan Constitutions. CHI petitioned the trial court for an injunction allowing it to restore the prayer trail. When the trial court refused, CHI appealed.DONATE
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