D.C. church says a bike lane would infringe upon its constitutional ‘rights of religious freedom’

Oct 15, 2015

Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

By Perry Stein

The District government is going through the rather municipally boring process of determining where to build a bike lane on the east side of downtown.

And one church has given a charged response to some proposals, saying that a bike lane near its property would infringe upon “its constitutionally protected rights of religious freedom and equal protection of the laws.”

The District Department of Transportation is exploring installing a protected bike lane going northbound and southbound somewhere between Fifth and Ninth streets NW that would connect to popular east and west protected bike lanes, such as M and L streets NW, or Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

The United House of Prayer is located in the 600 block of M Street NW and three of the four possible bike lane routes would run along at least parts of Sixth Street NW between Florida and Constitution avenues NW. (There is currently a bike lane going northbound on Fifth Street NW starting where the street becomes one way in that direction at the intersection of Fifth Street, New York Avenue and L Street NW.)

The church, represented by a lawyer, wrote in a letter to DDOT, which WashCycle blog obtained and reported on, that the proposals along Sixth Street are “unsupportable, unrealistic and particularly problematic for traffic and parking.” The church, which says it has more than 800 congregants, notes that the Convention Center is in the area, which already exacerbates traffic and parking issues. Consequently, as many car lanes and parking space as possible are needed on the street.

Read the full article by clicking the name of the source below.

26 comments on “D.C. church says a bike lane would infringe upon its constitutional ‘rights of religious freedom’

  • @OP link – DDOT is hosting an open house for the proposed bike lanes where residents can provide input on Oct. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Shaw Library, 1630 Seventh St. NW.

    So they can make their case to balance their congregation’s need for parking on public roads, with the interests of cyclists and other road users!

    Perhaps some of the congregation could improve their fitness and liberate some parking spaces for other road users, by taking up cycling!

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  • Why don’t they pray about it? According to the Good Book, that’s all it takes. But maybe it’s not in “God’s Plan”!

    It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. As a daily bicycle commuter and atheist, it’s tempting to hope the church gets screwed over, but the more civilized* side of my brain hopes a compromise can be reached. “Turn the other wheel!”

    *Not that atheists are necessarily uncivilized!


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  • bonnie
    Oct 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    The letter, written on behalf of United House of Prayer, delves into the personal feelings behind their cause.

    I don’t think equality of religious rights includes a preferential right to use and park motor vehicles, so they are probably going to have to cope with traffic problems and restrictions, just like everyone else in busy cities!

    It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

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  • “Religious Freedom” is a personal right not to have someone else’s religion pressed on you. Even if the church doesn’t understand that, their lawyers ought to be able to explain it for them.

    I will be interested to hear how their congregation merely having the ability to turn up on bicycles infringes anything at all

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  • UHoP (and others in this prime location), lay claim to historical, and minority significance. They fill a niche, and are fighting for it. (page six, para three)


    I read it as Convention Center traffic is the problem. Not unlike mom and pop stores getting the big squeeze.

    I’m not “pro” church parking on public streets – rather, rooting for the underdog, more often than not.

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  • i have a religious right to park my boat wherever I want, right?
    I wish I had a boat………..
    How about the “church” do something good for the community instead of crying for special rights for religious parking?

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  • The church has a valid parking complaint; however, infringing on one’s religious freedom is a stretch. IMO, they would have had a better argument from a business standpoint–just like any other business that is confronted with lane modifications. To play the religious freedom card is weak and childish.

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  • bonnie
    Oct 15, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I read it as Convention Center traffic is the problem. Not unlike mom and pop stores getting the big squeeze.

    I don’t know how planning laws work in this state, but it would seem if the Convention Centre is the cause of the traffic and parking problem, objections should have been made when it was built.

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  • Seems to be something of a habit, claiming the pavements for religious purposes. It always amuses me that the godly park all over the pavements in Armagh (N Ireland) outside their churches every Sunday so they can pray for forgiveness of their sins despite, legal ‘No Parking at Any Time’ parking restrictions and the general prohibition on parking on pavements in traffic law, so forcing all pedestrians walk in the road while they are at it. They have always been let get on with it by police, traffic wardens et al.
    But in fairness, parents of the Adventure Scouts block the small shop car-parks and adjacent roads so their bonny wee Scouts don’t have to ‘adventure’ to the public car parks 200 yards up the road, and Alcoholics Anonymous members cover the pavement and block the road (and junction) with cars during their meetings and no one stops them either.
    Police and councils seem unwilling to be seen to stop groups promoted as A Good Thing from being downright lazy, maybe in case their members stop Doing Good Things and accuse the authorities of ‘not supporting’ them.

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  • As an avid cyclist, I am usually out on Sunday morning. I have had several experiences near the local catholic church with the churchgoers who are late for the service nearly killing me. I went so far as to write the pastor to see if he could relay the message that if there was a god, it wouldn’t want you to kill cyclists to get to the church on time. I got no response of course.

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  • This isn’t the first time a local church’s opposition to a proposed bike lane has turned into a political fight.

    Why are we even paying any attention to a church’s position on any political issue. They don’t pay taxes, so they get no say. Don’t go away mad, just go away. If you want to participate in the political process, pay your entry fee.

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  • equal protection

    This includes UoHP’s impression that “DDOT is specifically targeting historical African-American churches…“.

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  • This too idiotic for words.
    The church is being treated just like any other business.
    There is nothing in the Christian religion about bikes or bike lanes. The bicycle was not invented until 1817.
    There should be some huge fine for launching silly legal actions.

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  • If they install cycle lanes in the States like they often do in the UK, I have some sympathy for the church.

    In Norwich, the only road into the city centre from the north has been partly closed FOR 6 MONTHS to install a very short cycle lane ON ONE SIDE of the road only. This has been achieved by narrowing the main road, so cyclists heading in the direction that does not have a cycle lane will now be even closer to the motorised traffic! But as long as the council can tick its cycle lane quota box, hey. Sorry, had to get that off my chest! (I cycle and drive and can say with absolute assurance that the city planners don’t have any understanding of reality.)

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  • Where in the constitution are churches guaranteed one parking space for every attendant? even if they build a large church on their land?

    The bike lanes are being built on public land. The church has no particular say in what is done with that land other than as a “taxpayer”. Further, the bike lanes have no effect whatever on the church land available for parking.

    Usually it is easy for vehicular traffic to cross bike lanes. So they could not impede access.

    This complaint makes no sense. I suspect this is really about the general Christian anti-environmental attitude expressing as opposition to cycling. It could also be that the pastor hates bikes because he imagines without them the roads would have less congestion. (The opposite is true since cars take up more room than bikes.) His lawsuit is the addled way he expresses his disapproval.

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  • It seems to me parking spaces are parking spaces. Not religious parking spaces, sport parking spaces or shopping spaces.
    First come, first serve.
    Could the church possibly car pool from another location? Or hire a shuttle on Sunday?
    This is their problem. Maybe they should move their church to another location. Maybe they could rent a parking lot for Sunday that is close.
    There are lots of options rather than claiming religious freedom. Parking has nothing to do with freedom.

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  • No no no, that’s not how prayer works –
    Hire lawyers (using tax-free donations) and PRAY that they win (and don’t overcharge).

    Close to this one: “I prayed for a bike, but my priest explained that’s not how prayer works. So I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness”.

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  • I see the megachurch leaders in in Singapore have been exercising their “freedoms” with donations from the gullible!

    Six leaders of a huge Singaporean church have been convicted of fraud in a case worth S$50m ($35m; £23m).

    The judge ruled City Harvest Church’s pastor, Kong Hee, and others used church finances to fund the music career of his wife, Sun Ho, or falsified accounts to cover it up.

    The defendants had argued Ms Ho’s pop music career was a way of reaching out to non-Christians.

    They have been bailed until sentencing, but could face up to life in jail.

    City Harvest – considered a megachurch – is one of Singapore’s wealthiest evangelical churches, with an estimated 30,000 members in Singapore and 15 services every weekend.

    It says it has 48 affiliates in countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, Brunei and Australia.

    In a statement posted on the church’s website, Ms Ho said they were “disappointed by the outcome” and the six were taking further legal advice.

    She thanked church members for their “unwavering faithfulness in loving God and loving one another” and called for “a unity that is unbreakable”.

    As the six leaders appeared in court, the church tweeted messages asking for supporters’ prayers.

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