A United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee recently ruled that Layman Lessons Church and Welcome Baptist Church, Inc. (“Layman Lessons”) can move forward with most, but not all, of its religious discrimination claims against Metropolitan Government of Nashville/Davidson County (“Nashville”).  The dispute arose in 2018, when Layman Lessons claims that Nashville used local building and zoning laws to prevent it from ministering to the poor and homeless on commercially zoned property located at 1455 Neelys Bend Road, Madison, Tennessee (“Property”).  Layman Lessons provides food, clothing, shelter, a mobile shower and laundry center, transportation, life skills training, and spiritual and recovery counseling to the poor and homeless.  It alleges that Nashville discriminated against it by refusing to allow it to use the Property to serve the poor and homeless in a variety of ways, including by delaying its religious use of the Property; preventing mobile food pantries in the paved parking area; issuing fabricated stop work orders, even though Layman Lessons was not violating any law; recommending demolition of Layman Lessons’ storage barn; refusing to correct an illegal storm water pipe that flooded the Property; and interfering with Layman Lessons’ existing contract with its landlord to conduct religious activities, operate mobile food pantries; and provide laundry services to the homeless.
Continue Reading Church Ministering to Homeless/Needy Can Proceed with Most of its Religious Discrimination Claims

The Chabad House for Towson University and Goucher College, pictured above, has filed a lawsuit against Baltimore County, Maryland (the “County”), following a state court order requiring demolition of a newly-constructed addition to the Chabad House. The Complaint alleges, among other things, violations of RLUIPA’s substantial burden, equal terms, nondiscrimination, and exclusions and limitations provisions.
Continue Reading Chabad House for Towson University and Goucher College Files Lawsuit Alleging RLUIPA Violations Following State Court Order to Demolish Newly-Constructed Addition

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision dismissing a church’s religious discrimination claims.  In doing so, the Fourth Circuit found that the church had properly alleged claims under RLUIPA based in part on the community’s ethnic bias against the church’s connection to associated church’s in Kenya, as well as the fact that many of the church’s congregants were born in Africa.  (We previously posted about the case here).
Continue Reading 4th Circuit Rules Ethnic Bias Gives Rise to RLUIPA Claim

As New Year’s approaches, let’s look back at last year’s happenings and how they have shaped religious land use issues across the nation.  Here are our top 10 most read blog posts of 2018:

A federal court in Maryland has denied the City of Laurel, Maryland’s (“City”) motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Redemption Community Church (“Church”). The Church filed suit last February, after the City issued a cease and desist order prohibiting the Church from offering religious services at the coffee shop it owns in the City’s community-village zoning district (the “CV Zone”). We previously posted about this case here.
Continue Reading Coffee Shop Church’s Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss, City Amends Code to Permit Use

Back in 2015, we first reported about a RLUIPA case pitting the County of Maui, Hawaii against practitioners of “Integral Yoga” (prior post available here).  Integral Yoga is a worldwide religious organization established in the U.S. in 1966 that believes “the goal and the birthright of all individuals is to realize the spiritual unity behind the diversity throughout creation and to live harmoniously as members of ‘one universal family.’”  Maui’s Planning and Zoning Commission (the “Commission”) has repeatedly denied the efforts of Frederick R. Honig, also known as Swami Waroopananda (“Honig”), and Spirit of Aloha Temple (the “Temple”) to use an 11-acre site on Haumana Road in Haiku, Hawaii (the “Property”) for Integral Yoga and other related religious uses.  Honig (a Senior Minister of the Temple) describes the Property, which is zoned for agricultural and conservation purposes, as the “most perfect property” in the world.  A federal court issued a ruling earlier this summer denying the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, meaning the case may be headed for trial.
Continue Reading Court Denies Summary Judgment in “Integral Yoga” RLUIPA Dispute in Hawaii

Recent amendments to the zoning code of the City of Monroe, North Carolina (the “City”) are unconstitutional, according to the Complaint filed by At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church (the “Church”), a congregation of approximately 30 people established in 2017, which describes itself as having “a calling to serve the Monroe, North Carolina community.”
Continue Reading North Carolina City’s Zoning Code Amendment “At The Cross”-Road of RLUIPA Claim

Last month, a church known as Love of Life Fellowship, Inc. (the “Church”) sued the County of Chesterfield, Virginia, alleging religious discrimination resulting from its desired acquisition and use of 38 acres at 500 Baptist Drive in Chester, Virginia (the “Property”).  The Church has used the Property for two years for religious worship and other activities, including community outreach, serving the homeless, assisting those struggling with and recovering from addiction, helping veterans, and providing youth programs.  The Church filed suit after the County sought an injunction to prevent the Church from operating at the Property.
Continue Reading Church Sues Virginia County Over Religious Discrimination Claims

A federal court in Maryland has found that a rabbi was without standing to bring claims under RLUIPA’s nondiscrimination and equal terms provisions, since those claims can be brought only by an “assembly” or “institution.”  While the court dismissed these claims, identical claims brought by a Jewish congregation – an assembly or institution under RLUIPA – continued.
Continue Reading Rabbi Lacks Standing for some RLUIPA Claims, Says Federal Court

A federal court in Maryland recently rejected a church’s RLUIPA and related constitutional claims, finding that the religious group’s claimed harm was self-created.  The case demonstrates the importance of due diligence efforts in connection with developing property in the context of a religious land use controversy.

The religious group, Jesus Christ is the Answer Ministries,