CINCINNATI — CLEVELAND'S 11-year agreement to rent space to the Roman Catholic Church for a chapel at a city airport is constitutional, a federal appeals court says.
The United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a district court's ruling that the arrangement at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport does not violate constitutional separation of church and state.
Three Cleveland residents and an advocacy group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued in 1983 after the Cleveland City Council authorized the arrangement.
The plaintiffs challenged a city ordinance and lease that allows the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland to lease the space in the airport's terminal. The diocese has paid $100 month plus utilities since the chapel opened in 1986.
The lawsuit claimed that the chapel uses public property to promote the Catholic faith and that the lease amounted to an unconstitutional partnership between church and state.
Appeals Judges Boyce Martin Jr., Damon Keith, and Martha Craig Daughtrey said the arrangement is constitutional.
Chapels exist in at least 16 other airports in the US, the appeals court said. Two other federal appeals courts have ruled that chapels within municipal airports are constitutional.