Original Photography by Pai Shih (Licensed, cropped from original)

Here are news items involving local government, religion, and land use that have caught our attention.

  • Religion Clause Blog reports that Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis is using the state’s recently enacted religious freedom law to protect its founder and two members from prosecution for possession of marijuana. The Church alleges that cannabis is the sacrament of the Church, and that laws punishing marijuana possession implicate its members’ religious exercise.  The Complaint in First Church of Cannabis, Inc. v. State of Indiana is available here.  The Indiana Star has more on this story, including a video clip of the Church’s service (notice the American flag next to the giant cannabis leaf).  The sanctuary of the Church includes a painting of two hands passing a joint, in the style of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.  Indiana University law professor David Orentlicher stated the following regarding the Church’s lawsuit: “Is this a genuine religion, or is it a pretext?  Because you can imagine, with anyone who’s using a controlled substance, we can’t let them all say, ‘it’s my religion.’  The court has to draw a line somewhere.”

Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law, and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions. However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government. At this time, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, with my support, has filed a petition requesting a rehearing of the Ten Commandments case. Additionally, our Legislature has signaled its support for pursuing changes to our state Constitution that will make it clear the Ten Commandments monument is legally permissible. If legislative efforts are successful, the people of Oklahoma will get to vote on the issue.

            The Governor’s full statement is available at Ok.gov.

  • Florida Today reports that a coalition of atheist, agnostic and humanist groups is suing Brevard County, Florida in federal court for refusing to allow religious non-believers the opportunity to offer a prayer before the start of County Commission meetings. The complaint, filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, is available here.  The plaintiffs contend that Brevard County’s policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Florida Constitution, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway.
  • Texas News reports that a West Texas County Clerk is refusing to issue marriage licenses for same sex couples following the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, and has issued a what she calls a “declaration” to “protect natural marriage from lawless court opinions.”
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Photo of Evan Seeman Evan Seeman

Evan J. Seeman is a lawyer in Robinson+Cole’s Hartford office and focuses his practice on land use, real estate, environmental, and regulatory matters, representing local governments, developers and advocacy groups. He has spoken and written about RLUIPA, and was a lead author of…

Evan J. Seeman is a lawyer in Robinson+Cole’s Hartford office and focuses his practice on land use, real estate, environmental, and regulatory matters, representing local governments, developers and advocacy groups. He has spoken and written about RLUIPA, and was a lead author of an amicus curiae brief at the petition stage before the United States Supreme Court in a RLUIPA case entitled City of San Leandro v. International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Evan serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of the APA’s Planning & Law Division. He also serves as the Chair of the Planning & Zoning Section of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section, and is the former Co-Chair of its Municipal Law Section. He has been named to the Connecticut Super Lawyers® list as a Rising Star in the area of Land Use Law for 2013 and 2014. He received his B.A. in political science and Russian studies (with honors) from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was selected as the President’s Fellow in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. Evan received his Juris Doctor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he served on the Connecticut Law Review. While in law school, he interned with the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General in the environmental department, and served as a judicial intern for the judges of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court. Following law school, Evan clerked for the Honorable F. Herbert Gruendel of the Connecticut Appellate Court.

Photo of Karla Chaffee Karla Chaffee

Karla L. Chaffee is a member of Robinson+Cole’s Real Estate + Development Group and is based in the Boston office, focusing on a variety of land use and environmental matters. Karla’s interest in RLUIPA began in law school when she co-authored, “Six

Karla L. Chaffee is a member of Robinson+Cole’s Real Estate + Development Group and is based in the Boston office, focusing on a variety of land use and environmental matters. Karla’s interest in RLUIPA began in law school when she co-authored, “Six Fact Patterns of Substantial Burden in RLUIPA: Lessons for Potential Litigants,” (with Dwight Merriam) published in Albany Government Law Review (Spring 2009). Karla has continued to write and speak on RLUIPA and has represented clients in several federal proceedings, including RLUIPA, First Amendment, and Equal Protection claims. In addition to her RLUIPA practice, Karla has litigated complex environmental matters, defending claims under Massachusetts Chapter 21E. Karla’s transactional experience includes pre-acquisition and pre-financing due diligence, environmental risk assessment and risk mitigation. She also represents clients seeking local zoning approvals and counsels them on the impact of proposed or recently enacted land use legislation, as well as on land use trends across the country.

Karla is also a proud member of Robinson+Cole’s Pro Bono Committee and is dedicated to maintaining pro bono work as part of her practice. Her pro bono clients include individuals and families seeking asylum in the United States. She has also represented nonprofit organizations in obtaining tax-exempt status and has served as legal counsel in a zoning appeal for a nonprofit association created to support and protect a national park.

Photo of John Peloso John Peloso

John Peloso, a partner in the firm’s Real Estate Litigation Group, is a trial lawyer who represents companies, municipalities, and individuals in a wide range of matters. At the administrative, trial, and appellate levels, John counsels clients and litigates real property disputes, including…

John Peloso, a partner in the firm’s Real Estate Litigation Group, is a trial lawyer who represents companies, municipalities, and individuals in a wide range of matters. At the administrative, trial, and appellate levels, John counsels clients and litigates real property disputes, including real estate, land use, environmental, and tax matters, including RLUIPA and eminent domain matters.

In the area of real estate litigation, John represents institutional, municipal, and individual clients in disputes involving title, zoning, wetlands, land use, RLUIPA, eminent domain, and other real property rights. He also represents clients in all aspects of commercial lease and other real estate transactional disputes. In the area of real property tax litigation, he represents institutional and individual clients in proceedings at the regulatory, administrative, and trial levels. In this regard, he has dealt with specialized issues involving among other things, the valuation of high-tech software, wireless communications equipment, contingency fee tax audits, special use properties, and the impact of environmental conditions on the valuation of real property.

Prior to joining Robinson+Cole, John was a member of the litigation department at White & Case LLP in New York City, where he concentrated his practice in complex commercial, property and securities litigation.