GENOA TOWNSHIP, Michigan — A Catholic group dedicated to a popular Italian saint sued a southeastern Michigan township Wednesday after the local government rejected plans for a chapel and prayer trail in a wooded area.
The project was approved by the planning commission in Livingston County’s Genoa Township, but the township board rejected it, 5-2, on May 3.
Catholic Healthcare International said the township violated the First Amendment as well as a federal law that protects religious groups from discriminatory land policies.
The chapel would have 95 seats, and the parking lot would have 39 spaces. There would be a small outdoor altar and a prayer trail.
“The township’s denial was based upon amorphous, subjective considerations that were contrary to the facts and which permit an anti-religious/anti-Catholic animus to drive the township’s decision,” the lawsuit states.
An email seeking comment was sent to the township. Minutes from the meeting show board members said they were concerned about traffic, visitors and noise, among other objections.
Padre Pio was made a saint in 2002. He was known for holiness, and his popularity began to spread in 1918 when he bled from his hands, feet and sides. The monk is considered the first priest in centuries to display signs of the stigmata, the wounds suffered by Jesus at crucifixion.