10/17/2017: Hunt Valley Baptist Church receives favorable decision in suit against Baltimore County
In Hunt Valley Baptist Church, Inc. v. Baltimore County, Maryland, (D MD, Oct. 17, 2017), a Maryland federal district court held that a Baptist church can proceed with challenges under RLUIPA as well as with Free Exercise and Equal Protection challenges to the county's refusal to grant it a special exception under its zoning laws to allow construction of a place of worship and related facilities.
"Church Can Move Ahead With RLUIPA Challenges To Zoning Refusal," Catholic News Live (Oct. 19, 2017)
The court held that the Church could have a reasonable expectation in obtaining a special exception to build a place of worship
In my view, the Church has stated a substantial burden claim under 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(a)(1) because it has plausibly alleged that it had a reasonable expectation that it could build a house of worship on the Property if it satisfied the conditions. Moreover, the Church alleges that it complied with all of the objective standards under BCZR § 502 .1 for the grant of a special exception. And, as demonstrated by the administrative record, the ALJ and one Board member agreed that the Church met all nine requirements, at least as to the portion pertaining to the construction of the structure.
Hunt Valley Baptist Church v. Baltimore County, Civ. No. 17-804 (Oct. 17, 2017)
03/24/2017: S&A client Hunt Valley Baptist Church files suit against Baltimore County after denial of special exception
“Equal treatment of all religious institutions is a cornerstone of our constitutional traditions,” said Roman P. Storzer, attorney for the church, in the release. “We are confident that the protections of religious exercise that exist under federal and state law will allow Hunt Valley Baptist Church to minister to its members and the community at large in the manner that they believe is necessary.”
B. Zumer, "Hunt Valley Baptist Church sues Baltimore County after expansion denial," Fox45 News (Mar. 24, 2017)
Baltimore County is facing two federal lawsuits, one from a synagogue, the other from a church, on the grounds that their religious rights are being violated.
A. Burnett, "Religious Litigation Arises in Baltimore County," WJZ (Apr. 13, 2017)
A church and a synagogue find themselves in a battle against Baltimore County, with the congregations raising allegations of religious discrimination. Two lawsuits have been filed in federal court. One has to do with the expansion of the Hunt Valley Baptist Church and the other, a Russian community synagogue trying to move into Pikesville. Both have sued Baltimore County and the Board of Appeals of Baltimore County, claiming this is about a violation of their civil rights.
D. Weiner, "Church, synagogue suing Baltimore County over religious discrimination," WBAL TV11 (Apr. 14, 2017)