Monday, August 15, 2016

Is Installing Solar Panels a Form of Religious Activity?

A Unitarian Universalist Church in Bedford, Massachusetts is claiming that it is, see here.  Because their church building, which was built in 1817, is located within the town's historic district, it is subject to certain construction regulations.  The town's Historic District Commission denied the church's request to install solar panels, presumably because it would negatively affect the historic look of the building.  The church has now sued the Commission claiming that denying their request violates the free exercise of their religion.  They claim that their members have a religious calling to undertake energy-conscious activities.

How courts have ruled in such matters has shifted over the decades, and it is unclear what will happen here.  One issue that could be relevant is the degree to which installing solar panels can be depicted as something that is tied to fundamental tenets of the church.

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