Christian couple sues government for alleged civil rights violations
A couple in a community northeast of Pittsburgh is challenging the borough government, which contends Bible studies and other religious events on their 32-acre farm are violating a zoning ordinance.
The Independence Law Center of Harrisburg—a public-interest law firm affiliated with the Pennsylvania Family Institute—has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Scott and Theresa Fetterolf. It says the Sewickley Heights Borough’s attempts to prevent them from using their farm for religious purposes violates their civil rights.
The Law Center’s chief counsel, Randall Wenger, points out the borough is trying to restrict worship. Yet, he said it permits such activities in the area as parties, political fundraisers, and book clubs.
“The borough has no business overseeing a group of people reading and discussing a book together on private property—even if that book is the Bible,” Wenger told radio station WDAC.
The lawsuit said the farm had been used for decades for church retreats, seminary picnics, youth groups, and by other organizations supported by original owner Nancy Doyle Chalfant, who died in 2012.
The Fetterolfs attended church with Chalfant and purchased her land in 2003 “to carry on the traditions” she started, it said.