Man Threatens Nun • Church Sues Festival • Zoning Hoops: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Man Threatens Nun • Church Sues Festival • Zoning Hoops: News Roundup
Image: Pablo Heimplatz / Unsplash

Virginia Church Denied Permit to Move into Industrial Property. “The Rocky Mount Town Council voted Monday night to deny a special permit that would allow a church to move into an area zoned for industrial use. . . . The property is zoned M1—Industrial Limited District, which is defined ‘primarily as an area for wholesale activities, warehouses, and industrial operations of a light nature that will not create serious problems or incompatibility with other land uses.’ Council voted 5-1 to deny the request. . . . Mayor Steve Angle explained that council had to look at the issue purely from a land use perspective. ‘They’re not making any more land,’ he said. ‘Industrial property is extremely difficult to come by.’ . . . A staff analysis prepared by Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins said a building of this size would likely accommodate 15 to 20 full-time jobs, up to seven days a week. It also notes that by approving the church, the town and county would lose out on the tax revenue a business would generate” (“Rocky Mount council denies permit for church seeking to move,” The Roanoke Times).

Find out more about property disputes and legal zoning law remedies with our Avoiding Church Lawsuits resource.

Man Threatens Nun in Brooklyn Church. “Police are investigating a possible hate crime after a man allegedly threatened to kill a nun who was praying inside a Catholic Church in Brooklyn [on July 5]. The nun is the Mother Superior of her community, according to the Diocese of Brooklyn, and was praying inside the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph around 2 p.m. when a shirtless man approached her. In the video, the man can be seen meandering through the entrance and the nearly empty church before he stops in at the pew in front of the praying nun. He told the nun: ‘I don’t believe in this because you don’t help the poor.’ When she did not respond, he said, ‘What did I say?’ At that moment, the nun looked around the church at a woman in another pew. ‘She can’t help you. I’m going to kill you,’ the man said . . . The video then shows the nun running out of the church to call for help. The incident was caught on surveillance video” (“Security footage shows man threatening to kill nun in a Brooklyn church,” Patheos).

This downloadable resource contains assessments and how-to articles to equip your church in confronting dangerous or disruptive people.

Appeals Court Rejects Church’s Lawsuit Against Music Festival. “In Amistad Christiana Church v. Life Is Beautiful, LLC . . . the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a claim by a Christian church that a music festival put on by Life is Beautiful, LLC with a permit from the City of Las Vegas was so intrusive that it violated their free exercise and free speech rights. The court found no state action, concluding that Life is Beautiful is a private entity not acting under color of state law. The city's special event permit regulated permissible sound levels for the festival” (“In 9th Circuit, Church Loses Suit Against Loud Music Festival,” Religion Clause).

What is the free exercise clause? Learn more with this entry from our Legal Library.

Former Arkansas Church Secretary Arrested for Alleged Embezzlement. “The former secretary of Leonard Street Baptist Church was arrested Wednesday night [July 5] on a felony warrant for allegedly embezzling more than $140,000 from the church. James Robert Martin, 68, of Hot Springs Village, was taken into custody around 8 p.m. and charged with theft of property more than $2,500, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. . . . According to the affidavit, on August 22, 2016, [the Reverend Jimmy] Holland filed a complaint with police alleging theft. He stated he and other church staff had recently discovered several discrepancies in the church's finances that had occurred over the past several years. He stated the former secretary, identified as Martin, wrote several checks from the church's bank account between January 1, 2014, and August 8, 2016, totaling $64,315.34 in unaccounted funds. Holland noted Martin did have permission to write checks, but had not provided any invoices or receipts for the checks written and he had resigned as secretary prior to the complaint being filed” (“Ex-church secretary arrested,” The Sentinel-Record).

How would your church respond if a theft were discovered? Use this downloadable resource to make a plan.

Missouri Church Faces Backlash over Rezoning Plan. “A month after the Palace movie theater shut off its projectors permanently, Chesterfield Village neighbors continue to fight a rezoning plan that would allow for a church to move into the now-vacant property. City Council held public comment for the bill Monday night. Several Chesterfield residents spoke against the proposal, citing concerns that ranged from traffic congestion to how churches do not contribute to the tax base. . . . The Palace property is under contract to be bought by Assemblies of God-affiliated Life360 Church, which is looking to relocate its nearby Park Crest campus to the 29,000-square-foot theater. The contract is contingent on approval of the rezoning request and would change the Palace property from a planned development district (this specific one does not allow for churches) to a general retail district. The zoning of other parts of Chesterfield Village does allow for churches” (“Council considers rezoning former Palace theater to become church,” Springfield News-Leader).

Zoning issues often land churches in court. Familiarize yourself with these 11 key zoning reminders for church leaders.

We're always preparing the best and fastest ways to bring you the news in the context of expert advice. For more regular updates, follow us on Twitter or on Facebook.


Emily Lund is Assistant Editor for Church Law & Tax.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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