In Harbor Missionary Church Corp. v. City of San Bueanaventura, 642 Fed. App. 726 (9th Cir., 2016), plaintiff had a church ministry serving the homeless. Defendant told Plaintiff it needed a conditional use permit (CUP) and, when it applied for the same, denied it. Plaintiff then brought a suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), requesting a preliminary injunction to keep its ministry available pending appeal. The trial court denied the injunction, finding the church suffered no substantial burden under RLUIPA because it could move its ministry elsewhere and that the denial of the CUP was the least restrictive means of meeting the City’s concerns.
Tree of Life Christian Schools v. City of Upper Arlington, 2016 WL 2897658 (6th Cir.) involved Defendant’s denial of a rezoning to accommodate a religious school based on a master plan policy to maximize income tax revenues from commercial uses. Plaintiff claimed a violation of the “equal terms” provisions of RLUIPA by which religious assemblies or institutions may not be treated on less than equal terms compared to non-religious counterparts. The Sixth Circuit concluded this question to be factual, rather than legal.
Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre v. Incorporated Village of Old Westbury, 2015 WL 5178126 (EDNY) involved a lengthy battle over the siting of a religious cemetery in Defendant Village in the face of a newly adopted “Places of Worship” (POW) ordinance, challenged under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection and Free Exercise clauses. In these proceedings Plaintiff moved for summary judgment, claiming the POW Ordinance was facially unconstitutional, while Defendants moved for summary judgment to dismiss all claims. Note, one claim not treated in this summary deals with New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which involves New York statutory issues.
Hope Rising Community Church v. Municipality of Penn Hills, 2015 WL 7220380 (W. D. Pa.) involved a growing church congregation that leased an industrial building, making $7000 in improvements and gaining $10,000 in materials and labor donated by members. The pastor claimed that the staff gave him the verbal go-ahead, but the staff denied such a conversation. When the pastor applied for an occupancy permit, it was denied and the church was ordered to stop holding services at the site. Under defendant’s code, churches are only allowed as conditional uses in residential zones, and not permitted in the Light Industrial District where Plaintiff’s site lies. Uses not permitted outright or conditionally under the code are deemed prohibited. Defendant also denied Plaintiff’s use variance application, so the only uses recognized by Defendant are clothing distribution, food bank and volunteer meetings. The church alleges its membership attendance has dropped from 85 to from between 27 and 40.
Bloomingburg Jewish Education Center v. Village of Bloomingburg, 2015 WL 3604300 (S.D.N.Y.) involved the purchase of property and moving in of Hasidic Jews in Bloomingburg, the adjacent defendant community of Mamakating, the resistance of existing community members, and their elected officials to these efforts, allegedly in violation of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons and Fair Housing Acts and New York law. Defendants seek dismissal of those claims. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege Defendants obstructed a housing development marketed to potential Hasidic buyers, impeded a private Hasidic religious school and mikvah (a Hasidic ritual bath used for purification), and engaged in a program of harassment and discriminatory code enforcement aimed at Hasidic Jews.
Church of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ v. City of Markham, No. 15 C 4071 (N. D., Ill. August 19, 2015) was a suit by Plaintiff church against Defendants City and members of its governing body over the denial of a discretionary permit to allow a church use. A state court proceeding challenging that denial was dismissed without prejudice, but this federal action involved both an appeal of the denial, various complaints about open meetings violations, and violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and its state law analogue. This decision involved Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss all claims.
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