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Friday, May 18, 2012

Church's RLUIPA Challenge to Denial of Permit Goes to Trial

The Northern District of Illinois recently considered a RLUIPA challenge to the denial of a building permit to a religious organization in the case Liberty Temple Full Gospel Church, Inc. v. Vill. of Bolingbrook, 2012 WL 1230728 (N.D. Ill. 4/12/2012).   The church was searching for a new location for worship services for its congregation that had previously been holding worship services in a hotel.  When they approached the municipality about their first chosen site, the municipality raised concerns about the chosen location, among other issues.  They found a second site and submitted an application for a building permit, which was denied because the municipality determined that a special use permit was required.  The Church filed suit against the municipality under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claiming a substantial burden on religious exercise by the Village’s actions. The Village moved for summary judgment claiming that the Church was not substantially burdened because they never applied for the special use permit.

In analyzing the issue, the Court looked at the case of World Outreach Conference Center v. City of Chicago. The Court in that case distinguished between religious organizations that reasonably believe they have the proper zoning from those that unreasonably believe that they do or know that they do not. If an organization reasonably believes that they have the correct zoning, any denial of a permit may constitute a hardship or substantial burden under RLUIPA.  Because the parties disagreed as to whether the parcel was property zoned for a church or whether a special use permit was required for the church use, the court denied the motion for summary judgment.   The case will move forward to trial on these factual issues.

Thanks to Patty Salkin and her Law of the Land blog for reporting on this case.


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