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City of Chicago v. Bethlehem H.t. Church

MARCH 26, 1968.

CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

BETHLEHEM HEALING TEMPLE CHURCH, A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, First Municipal District; the Hon. FRANK B. MACHALA, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE LYONS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

In a bench trial, the defendant, Bethlehem Healing Temple Church, a Religious Corporation, was found guilty of violating the Chicago Municipal Building Code as to the five enumerated counts in the City of Chicago's complaint. The trial court entered judgment accordingly and imposed a total fine of $500 and costs, without allocation to the specified five counts. The defendant appeals only from the judgment order entered on count three which charges failure to install a standard and approved automatic sprinkler system throughout its entire premises pursuant to sections 48-4.3 and 64-1.2(h) of the Chicago Municipal Building Code.

The record discloses these facts. The defendant owns and maintains a four-story building located at 12-14 South Oakley Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. The first floor contains a church and an auditorium; the second floor, a dining room; the third floor, two meeting rooms and an auditorium; the fourth floor, two meeting rooms. Religious instructions are given to the children of church members on the third and fourth floors of this building.

The classes are held on Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. The instructors are church members who serve without remuneration. They have other gainful, full-time employment. Courses in religious instruction and the study of the Bible are taught to children ranging in age from three to over twelve. Some high school students are in attendance. At any one time on Wednesdays and Saturdays, up to three hundred and fifty children occupy the meeting rooms on the third and fourth floors during their religious instructions. The minimum number of children at any one time is two hundred.

The trial court agreed with the City of Chicago's contention that part of this building was being used for educational purposes from time to time and hence an automatic sprinkler system had to be installed throughout the defendant's entire premises pursuant to the Chicago Municipal Code.

The municipal ordinances in issue are:

Section 48-4.3 of the Chicago Building Code:

"Assembly units designed or used for educational or institutional purposes shall be classified as Class C-3, Schools. Every School shall be classified as follows:

"Type 1 Schools: Type 1 Schools shall include day nursery schools, kindergarten schools, elementary schools, high schools and other similar occupancies.

"Type 2 Schools: Type 2 Schools shall include colleges, schools for adult education, commercial and vocational schools and other similar occupancies."

Section 64-1.2(h) of the Chicago Building Code:

"Automatic sprinkler systems shall be provided in the following buildings and areas:

"On or before December 31, 1963, in every existing, preordinance building and buildings hereafter erected, two stories or more in height, used in whole or in part as Type 1 School, or used in whole as a Type 2 School. . . ."

In urging reversal of the trial court judgment, the defendant contends: (1) ambiguity is to operate against the party creating it; (2) it is operating a church and not a school on its premises; (3) the statute requiring the use of sprinklers in schools is a new statute, and as a new statute must be strictly construed; (4) penal or criminal statutes should be strictly construed in favor of the accused; (5) municipal ordinance ...


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