A federal court in the San Francisco Bay Area has determined that churches do not contribute to a vibrant and fun atmosphere and therefore may be excluded from Salinas’ downtown area.

New Harvest Christian Fellowship has rented space along Main Street in Salinas for more than 25 years. Their growing congregation prompted leaders to recognize several years ago that the church needed a larger facility. In the meantime, the church has had to limit or even discontinue some ministries because of the space limitations. In 2017, it seemed the church’s prayers were answered when a larger building just across the street went up for sale. With property at a premium in Northern California, the church seized the opportunity and bought the building in early 2018.

But the city had a different vision for Main Street. It demanded sharp restrictions on the building’s use such as worship and assemblies only on the second floor, and dedication of retail space on the ground floor to an extent that proved unworkable for the church. The church contacted Pacific Justice Institute, which recognized the preferential treatment the city was giving secular assembly uses at the same time it was blocking the church. Just a few feet away the city permitted theaters and live entertainment venues to operate without similar restrictions….

On May 29, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Van Keulen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a surprising decision siding with the city. The court determined that churches generate limited interest, do not draw tourists, and therefore detract from the city’s goals of vibrancy. The court further believed a city is justified in promoting a “street of fun” that excludes churches at the same time it allows even larger concert and entertainment venues….

The above comes from a June 16 email from the Pacific Justice Institute.