A church fighting a California city over use of its building is headed to federal court.
New Harvest Christian Fellowship is suing the City of Salinas for refusing to allow the church to move into the first floor of a new building across the street from where it currently holds worship services.
Attorney Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of New Harvest, says Pastor Ignacio Torres was told there is a zoning issue because the first floor is not zoned for a religious assembly.
Salinas, a historic city of approximately 157,000, has a "Vibrancy Plan" for the city's Main Street that permits an art gallery or restaurant, but not a church.
"The City of Salinas said, No, we're not going to let you use the first floor of that building, which is going to be a great limitation on their ability to have church services open to everyone who might want to attend," Dacus tells OneNewsNow.
PJI filed suit claiming the city is violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.
"Which was passed," he says, "to protect churches form this kind of discrimination by local governments."
The city attorney for Salinas did not respond to OneNewsNow's email seeking comment.
A hearing date has yet to be determined, and the PJI attorney says the church continues to meet at its current site, which is too small for the congregation to hold services and programs.
"We're hopeful," he says, "that the City of Salinas will quickly see the errors of their ways and correct things appropriately."