Atlanta Relents After One Year Battle; Allows Church to Worship
Mauck & Baker attorneys secure consent order, freeing church to open doors this Sunday
ATLANTA, October 24 /Christian Newswire/ -- As a result of the kidnapping and murder of a teen relative in the West End Neighborhood of Atlanta, Pastor Brenda Gibbons felt God calling her to return there to start a church - Kingdom First Ministries. Atlanta's zoning code for that area, however, allowed clubs, lodges, and other non- religious assembly uses, but excluded churches unless they got a special use permit. The church applied for the permit, but the city subsequently denied it (Background: www.telladf.org/news/story.aspx?cid=4701).
Atlanta reversed course today, October 24, agreeing to a court order from a federal judge that will allow Kingdom First Ministries to begin meeting in its rented building immediately, located at 535 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd., Atlanta. The city made its decision after Mauck & Baker LLC attorneys ( www.mauckbaker.com), John Mauck and Lee McCoy, and Alliance Defense Fund attorney, David Cortman, filed suit against the city for illegitimately denying the church use of the building.
"Atlanta had illegally zoned the Kingdom First property to exclude churches," said attorney John Mauck, of the Chicago law firm Mauck & Baker, LLC. "Once the situation was brought to the city's attorneys, however, they did not dig in their heels to bully the church. Instead, they promptly agreed to the court order, and we commend them."
"A city's zoning restrictions should not be designed to discriminate against churches," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. "We are pleased that Kingdom First is now free to worship in its building. Federal law does not allow a city to put a desire for property tax revenue ahead of the right of a church to meet in a facility that it rightfully occupies."
"We thank the City of Atlanta for acting so quickly after reading our complaint and realizing that their ordinance was illegal," said Lee McCoy, of Mauck & Backer, LLC ( www.mauckbaker.com) and one of the attorneys working on the case. "We appreciate the good sense of the city in agreeing to allow the church to move in immediately."
A copy of the court order issued in the lawsuit Kingdom First Ministries v. City of Atlanta is available at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/KFMorder.pdf.