A hearing has been set next month to hear the appeal by a local religious school in its legal fight against Genoa Township.

Livingston Christian Schools filed suit in 2015 against the township for its refusal to grant a special use permit that would have allowed the school to relocate to the Brighton Church of the Nazarene. The board cited traffic concerns, the school’s failure to follow the proper approval process and incompatibility with the township master plan. Despite claiming the denial violated their rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, LCS saw the case tossed out of court after a federal judge ruled the claims had no merit. The school appealed that to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which has finally scheduled oral arguments in the case for April 26th.

When U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed the suit last year, he noted that LCS could have remained in its former building in Pinckney, which had not yet been leased to a charter school, thus had not been unduly harmed. But the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based legal organization focused on litigating religious freedom cases, has argued that the township’s denial of the permit placed a “substantial burden” on the school’s ability to operate in violation of the federal statute. They further argued that the Pinckney location was no longer tenable for a variety of reasons, including finances and enrollment.

The township has called the school’s claims, “unreasonable and groundless” and alleges the school contradicted itself by originally claiming the move to Brighton was necessitated by growing enrollment that required a larger space, but then later said the move was necessitated by “financial challenges” and the new location was needed to spur enrollment growth. The township called that, “…a proverbial “Hail Mary” pass” to keep the school’s case alive in court. (JK)