An Empirical Look at Churches in the Zoning Process

10 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2006

See all articles by Stephen Clowney

Stephen Clowney

University of Arkansas - School of Law


Using data from New Haven, Connecticut, this study attempts to examine empirically whether churches face discrimination in the zoning context. Specifically, in this paper I scrutinize local government records to determine whether religious institutions are treated fairly in the zoning appeals process. This study contributes to the ongoing discussion over the regulation of religious land uses by answering two questions. First, to what extent does the Board of Zoning Appeals treat churches differently from secular applicants? Second, are there disparities between the fates of small religious sects and mainstream denominations in applications for zoning exemptions? My research casts some doubts upon the dominant narrative, which suggests churches have been routinely victimized by local zoning boards.

Keywords: property, land use, zoning, church, local government

JEL Classification: K11, R14, R52

Suggested Citation

Clowney, Stephen, An Empirical Look at Churches in the Zoning Process. Yale Law Journal, Vol. 116, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Stephen Clowney (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - School of Law ( email )

260 Waterman Hall
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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