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Court Ruled City Violated the Guaranty of Religion Clause by Changing Zoning Laws Prohibiting Jehovah's Witness Building a Church

A Jehovah's Witness congregation applied to city officials for approval to build a church in an area zoned for manufacturing use. The city then rezoned much of the community, changed the area where the church was to be built from a manufacturing to a residential district, and then prohibited the building of churches in all residential districts.

The congregation challenged the city's action as a violation of the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom. The court agreed: "Municipalities have the power to zone their districts, but to exclude churches and other places of worship from the very areas (residential communities) that they draw their members from and relocate them to a less desirable zone of the township … offends the very essence of … the New Jersey Constitution." Jehovah's Witnesses v. Woolrich Township, 532 A.2d 276 (N.J. Super. 1987)

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  • March 1, 1988