Key point 7-06.03. Local zoning commissions may violate a church's First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion by imposing unreasonable restrictions on the church's ability to purchase and develop land for church use. Churches whose constitutional rights are violated in this manner may be able to sue for money damages under federal law.
What legal recourse does a church have if its exclusion from a city (or portion of a city) violates its constitutional rights? In the past, churches that have been denied access to certain locations by action of a zoning board generally have been content to seek a reversal of such a determination in the civil courts. In recent years, however, some churches have gone a step further and have sued cities for violating their constitutional rights. The relevant statute is title 42, section 1983, of the United States Code, which specifies:
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