A federal judge this month ruled that an Evanston, Ill., church may worship on its own property. The city violated the First Amendment rights of Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church when city council members denied the church permission to conduct worship services in an office building it owns, the judge, Rebecca Pallmeyer, concluded in a 56-page opinion.
The building is in an area zoned for commercial office use. The city permits cultural organizations to locate there, and membership organizations can apply for special use, but churches are not allowed. Vineyard in 1997 asked the council to amend the zoning ordinance to permit churches as a special use. The council rejected the request.
Judge Pallmeyer said that allowing the church to stage, say, a production of the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, which includes a scene of a Jewish wedding, while banning an actual religious wedding, amounts to discrimination based on religion.