Church Law and Tax 1989-05-01 Recent Developments Zoning Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA •

Church Law and Tax 1989-05-01 Recent Developments


A Connecticut court ruled that a convent and chapel constituted a “church” for purposes of zoning law despite the operation of a bookstore and audiovisual center on the premises. The court concluded that the convent and chapel, by themselves, clearly satisfied the definition of a church. The fact that a bookstore and audiovisual center were also operated on the premises did not affect this conclusion, since the books and materials were religious and educational in nature and were sold to support the order’s missionary and instructional purposes. The court quoted from a 1943 decision of the United States Supreme Court: “The mere fact that religious literature is sold rather than donated does not transform evangelism into a commercial enterprise.” Further, the court concluded that the definition of “church” must be “regarded broadly for zoning purposes in order to avoid serious constitutional questions.” Finally, the court rejected the claim that the convent and chapel should not be allowed in a residential neighborhood since they “would be a detriment to the neighborhood by increasing traffic congestion.” The court observed that the intersection where the order planned to construct the convent and chapel “carried a daily traffic volume of over 18,000 cars,” and that the construction of the convent and chapel “would draw approximately twenty [additional] cars per day.” This case will be of interest to the many churches that operate bookstores on their premises. Daughters of St. Paul v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 549 A.2d 1076 (Conn. App. 1988).

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