The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suing the city and the Planning Board for rejecting its bid to demolish the vacant St. Teresa of Avila middle school on New Scotland Avenue to make way for a new Mormon chapel.
The suit, which was served Thursday morning on the board's acting chairman, Edward Trant, will test federal law that prevents cities and towns from using zoning and land-use laws to burden the free exercise of religion.
But city officials maintain the Planning Board's decision was aimed solely at preserving a building that need not be demolished, not at keeping the church out of the Helderberg neighborhood.
Specifically, the suit alleges the city violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA, which was passed by Congress in 2000 and gave religious organizations wide leeway when it comes to siting houses of worship.
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