A school board in Maine has rejected a church's application to hold worship services at a high school as part of a long-term lease.
The Pines Church in Bangor has filed a lawsuit against the Hermon School Committee in Maine, saying the school board violated its rights under the First Amendment, the Religion Land Use, the Institutionalized Persons Act, and other state laws, CBN News reports.
"Public institutions that seek to lease their facilities for revenue should not be able to discriminate based on religious or political conditions," said Legal Counsel and Vice President for Advocates for Faith & Freedom Mariah Gondeiro in a press release. "The Hermon School Committee has a history of leasing their properties to secular organizations without persecution. We are advocating for fair and equitable treatment under the law, and The Pines Church was denied that opportunity by the Hermon School Committee."
The school board would not approve a six-month to yearlong lease but instead said it would OK a month-to-month lease for the church, but church officials said that would not work for the church to plan and budget.
The Pines Church started negotiating a deal to use the school space in November 2022, but some committee members questioned the church's beliefs on gay marriage, abortion, and sexual education for youth.
The church says that the school policy to rent the high school did not state that the church's beliefs would be called into question.
"Organizations seeking short-term leases must also complete HSD's Building/Facilities Request Form. This is the only form required to be completed by organizations and seeks basic information regarding the areas requested and dates/times requested. No inquiry is made into the beliefs of the organization," the complaint says.
The church was willing to pay $1,000 a month for the space in the high school, more than $400 than the original rental price. Matt Giola, the Pines Church's pastor, said the church was proposing a six-month to one-year lease.
The school district already rents the space at Hermon High School to Black Bear Basketball, Hermon Recreation, the Boy Scouts, the Girls Scouts, and some baseball organizations.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.