Church sues Garden City over zoning issue

Mount Zion Church of God (KSN File Photo)

GARDEN CITY, Kansas – A church is suing the city of Garden City after they were told to stop preaching.

According to a zoning regulation, churches can’t be located on Main Street. But Mount Zion Church has been at 606 North Main for ten years, and they’re not leaving without a fight.

“We have no intention of moving, if I have to go to jail with this, I’m fine with that,” said Pastor Roger Bradshaw.

Mount Zion Church is in a designated business district, which doesn’t allow churches. But after being told to move, Pastor Roger Bradshaw approached the City Commission with a waiver to change his zoning designation, but was denied.

“We have issues with someone who says they are working with you, yet they give you no retractions,” said Pastor Bradshaw.

So Bradshaw is suing, saying it’s his right to preach.

The city attorney declined to comment, but when KSN spoke with city commissioners last month, they said it wasn’t about religious discrimination, they’re just upholding the zoning requirements of a business district.

“It’s what new business, it’s what they look at when they get to town, by and large, to determine the viability of their community,” said City Commissioner Janet Doll.

And a church doesn’t fit the desired mood of a thriving downtown.

“Garden City wants to make this about their laws, but Garden City is subject to the constitution and the Religious Land Use Act,” said Noel Sterett, an attorney representing Pastor Bradshaw.

The Religious Land Use Act of 2000 protects churches from zoning law restrictions on their property use.

“If you’re going to permit meeting places in this particular zone you cannot tell people that they just cannot meet and talk about religious things,” said Sterett.

For now the ball is in the city’s court. Bradshaw and his attorney say they’d like to settle before going to court in Kansas City, but will do whatever it takes to stay on Main Street.

Bradshaw and his attorney filed the lawsuit this last Friday and say they hope to hear back from the city very soon.

If not, the next step is a hearing in front of the United States District Court.

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