For the past two years First Presbyterian has hosted a musical theater glee camp in a mansion that is owned by the church and is adjacent to the sanctuary.
The camp was directed by a local couple with musical training. Students were tutored in singing, dancing and acting — as many as 78 in the 2014 session. The culmination of the summer camp was a performance held in a local theater.
The campers paid a fee to cover the costs of the instructors and materials during the three-week session. That’s what they did in 2012 and 2013.
City Hall alleged the church, by charging a fee, was engaged in a commercial enterprise within a residential district.
The city’s code enforcement officer issued a cease-and-desist order in July — alleging the church’s musical theater glee camp was a zoning violation.
Hiram Sasser, a Liberty Institute attorney defending the church against the city’s prosecution said that even if the camp was a commercial enterprise, the city’s attempt to ban it is a violation of the Religious Land Use Act.
As proof of the RLUA violation, Sasser said the city’s zoning law allows carnivals to operate in the same residential area.
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