FC: Tiny church wants tiny radio signal, government says "no"

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Sat Feb 02 2002 - 00:48:34 PST

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    For immediate  release:
    February 1,  2002
    Becket Fund joins battle by little NH church for right to have radio  studio
    Town of Enfield charged with violating free speech, free exercise  rights
    The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has joined the battle being waged by
    the Living Waters Bible Church against the Town of Enfield, New Hampshire
    over the right to broadcast Christian programming over a 7 watt FM radio
    station in the area.
    The Becket Fund, a bipartisan and interfaith public interest law firm,
    represents a number of churches and other religious institutions
    throughout the United States in cases filed under the Religious Land Use
    and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"). Enfield officials
    relied on their land use regulation authority in denying the church's
    request for a zoning variance that would allow it to operate a radio
    studio. The church's lawsuit charges the town with violations of RLUIPA
    and the U.S. and New Hampshire Constitutions..
    The Living Waters Bible Church is a small nondenominational church which
    meets in a modest little house located on a 50 acre property in Enfield.
    About a year ago, it agreed to work with another group, the Green Mountain
    Educational Fellowship, to bring Christian radio programs to residents in
    the area around Enfield. The Federal Communications Commission granted a
    Construction Permit for the station (WVFA - 90.5 MHz FM) on February 9,
    In June 2001, Pastor Elmer Murray informally approached town officials
    about his plan to build a very small radio studio on church property (the
    transmitter and antenna are located miles away, on Shakers Mountain), and
    was told it was an "accessory use" to the permitted church and residential
    uses already in place. But in July, the Town Planning Commission decided
    that a radio studio was not an accessory use, and would require a variance
    from the Board of Adjustment. The Board, yielding to pressure from a few
    neighbors, denied the variance and a later motion for rehearing. The
    church, left with no choice, sued in state court in November.
    The Town of Enfield removed the case to federal court on November 30. The
    Becket Fund, which won the first case litigated under RLUIPA just over a
    year ago, now represents churches and other religious groups in similar
    suits in half a dozen states stretching from Pennsylvania to Hawaii.  
    More information about this case, Living Waters Bible Church v. Town of
    Enfield, and about The Becket Fund can be found on its web
    sites, www.becketfund.org and www.rluipa.com.
    Patrick Korten
    The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
    (202)  955-0095
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