Edgewood High School sues Madison over athletic field conflict, alleges religious discrimination

Emily Hamer:

After a heated months-long battle with the city of Madison over whether Edgewood High School’s athletic field can be used to host games, the Catholic school filed a federal lawsuit against the city Wednesday alleging religious discrimination.

The lawsuit claims Madison has imposed city ordinances in an “arbitrary, unequal and unlawful” way by restricting the use of Edgewood’s athletic field to only team practice and gym classes, and refusing to give the school an electrical permit to add lights to the field.

“All of the city’s public high schools and the University of Wisconsin-Madison share the same zoning classification as Edgewood, yet the City is imposing these restrictions on Edgewood alone,” the lawsuit states.

Abigail Becker:

For nearly a century, (Edgewood) has used its on-campus athletic field to host athletic contests and other activities in furtherance of its religious mission and values,” the lawsuit states. “However, the City and its officials have now imposed the City’s land use regulations in an arbitrary, unequal, and unlawful manner to prohibit Edgewood and its students from using the field for anything other than team practices and physical education classes.”

In a statement, the school said it needed to file the lawsuit Wednesday to meet a deadline regarding possible future appeals and that it is reviewing all of its options.

Edgewood names the city, the Zoning Board of Appeals, Zoning Administrator Matt Tucker and Building Inspection Division Director George Hank in the lawsuit.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a statement Wednesday that the city “does not discriminate against any religion.”

Last year, Edgewood proposed adding seats, lighting and a sound system to its athletic field that would allow it to host sporting events at night. Neighbors opposed the project, saying the added lights, noise and traffic would disrupt the neighborhood.