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ANTRIM FAITH BAPTIST CHURCH v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (06/10/83)

decided: June 10, 1983.

ANTRIM FAITH BAPTIST CHURCH, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY AND THE INDUSTRIAL BOARD, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Industrial Board in case of In Re: Antrim Faith Baptist Church, Waynesboro Christian Academy, Waynesboro, Pa., No. 308-1782 (824-BM-8) (MA-172197), dated April 22, 1981.

COUNSEL

Charles E. Craze, Gibbs & Craze, with him Gregory R. Reed, for petitioner.

Maura A. Johnston, Deputy Attorney General, with her Allen C. Warshaw, Deputy Attorney General, Chief of Special Litigation Section, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondents.

Judges Craig, MacPhail and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 63]

Antrim Faith Baptist Church, located in Waynesboro, has appealed from an order of the Industrial Board granting to the church a conditional variance from regulations under the Fire and Panic Act,*fn1 so that the church may use the second floor of a building of ordinary construction for the conduct of its Waynesboro Christian Academy, a school for the weekday education of up to 100 children, pre-school through twelfth grade. Although the church apparently would not reject the variance which allows it to make the desired use, it does contend that the board's conditioning of the variance upon the installation of fire safety features is a violation of the church's constitutional right to free exercise of religion.

The factual findings, which the board made after conducting hearings, are not in dispute. In summary, the board found that:

-- The Abbott Building, two blocks from the church, is a two-story building of Type V (ordinary) construction, formerly a public school building built in 1900 and remodeled in 1961; it has wooden floors, a slate roof, two means of egress including a separate firetower, an enclosed furnace in the basement, a fire alarm system, emergency lighting and fire extinguishers.

-- The church uses the first floor of the building for a daily program for approximately seventy-five senior citizens, including the provision of lunch with the assistance of a small stove, but no kitchen.

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 64]

-- The church's proposed use of the second floor is for the education of children 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. five days per week, conducting grades pre-school through twelfth, in four classrooms, with a maximum of approximately 100 children.

Under the regulations adopted pursuant to the Fire and Panic Act, specifically 34 Pa. Code ยง 37.255, where an educational occupancy (Group B) is conducted in a building of ordinary construction, as distinguished from fire-resistive or fireproof construction, it cannot be conducted on the second story of a two-story ...


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