Battle over Springfield church heads back to court


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - The legal battle between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield and the city over a shuttered church is headed back to court.

The diocese closed Our Lady of Hope in 2009, but the city council voted unanimously to establish the 107-year-old church building as a local historic district, preventing its demolition.

The diocese objected in court, saying the city engaged in "religious gerrymandering" and interfered with the church's constitutional rights.

A federal judge in January 2011 sided with the city.

A diocese spokesman tells The Republican ( ) that negotiations to resolve the case with the help of a mediator failed, and the diocese has appealed to Boston's federal appeals court.

A city lawyer says he will file a response by March 7 and the case could be heard in the spring.