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Publications & Events

12/07/2016: Wall Street Journal reports on S&A Connecticut case 07/22/2016: S&A invited to White House event "Combating Religious Discrimination Today" 07/21/2016: United States Justice Department's August 2016 "Religious Freedom in Focus" discusses lawsuit against Bensalem Twp, Pa. 06/30/2016: NJ.com RLUIPA article highlights four S&A clients 05/06/2016: Baltimore Jewish Times features S&A client Ariel Jewish Center and Synagogue's efforts to build in Baltimore County 02/11/2016: Conservative Review discusses RLUIPA, "a younger law that works just as hard on the religious freedom front for almost none of the credit" 01/13/2016: Visit S&G's new Twitter resource: RLUIPALaw 02/06/2015: 2015 GW Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition 09/30/2014: S&G submits opinion letter to ANC regarding historic landmark regulation of St. Thomas church 08/16/2014: RLUIPA law review article by S&G attorneys selected for inclusion in Thomson Reuters' Zoning and Planning Law Handbook, 2014 edition 03/12/2014: S&G becomes a Cooperating Organization with the PBS "God In America" series Defending Religious Liberty in the 21st Century 03/12/2014: Storzer & Greene attorneys co-author article on RLUIPA's "Nondiscrimination" provision 02/07/2014: 2014 GW National Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition 04/16/2012: On April 16, Roman P. Storzer joined the Department of Justice's Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination Eric Treene to speak at the University of Richmond's Journal of Law and the Public Interest symposium on RLUIPA 02/11/2012: Roman Storzer will speak at UCLA symposium “Local Agencies on the Cutting Edge : Emerging Challenges to Local Land Use Authority” 02/11/2012: Roman Storzer served as a judge in the semi-final round for the 2012 GW National Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition, hosted by the George Washington University Law School 03/04/2011: Robert Greene will serve as a judge for the American Bar Association Law Student Division National Appellate Advocacy Competition at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York 02/28/2011: Christianity Today reports on Illinois City Council action to ban churches from building in commercial areas 02/18/2011: Hartford Courant reports on the Chabad Lubavich of Litchfield County’s lawsuit against the Borough of Litchfield 02/05/2011: Roman Storzer joined the George Washington University Law School’s 5th Annual National Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition 10/22/2010: Read the United States Department of Justice’s ”Report on the Tenth Anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act” 10/12/2010: Robert Greene to speak on RLUIPA issues at the International Municipal Lawyers Association's 2010 Annual Conference in New Orleans. 09/21/2010: Roman Storzer joined several other panelists to discuss the occasion of RLUIPA’s 10th anniversary at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s “RLUIPA 10 Years Later,” held in the Rayburn House Office Building 02/01/2010: S&G case to be subject of Harvard Pluralism Project documentary 11/17/2009: U.S. News & World Report quotes Storzer in mosque seizure story 09/22/2009: Robert Greene represents the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends at the National Council of the Churches of Christ Board of Governors Meeting 04/30/2009: Roman Storzer will join other religious freedom experts as a judge in the 2009 National Religious Freedom Moot Court on February 6. 04/30/2009: RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Uses, Zoning, and the Courts available for pre-order 04/17/2009: S&G Provides RLUIPA Training to Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County 04/13/2009: Robert Greene speaks at Princeton Theological Seminary on the origins of free exercise principles in the colonial era 03/12/2009: American Bar Association: The RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Uses, Zoning, and the Courts.” 11/13/2008: Robert Greene visits Capitol Hill on behalf of Quaker Committee 10/10/2008: Robert Greene named to National Religious Campaign Against Torture 10/10/2008: Robert Greene will join Prof. Marci Hamilton and several others in addressing the New Jersey State League of Municipalities 10/01/2008: Roman Storzer will be speaking at the Property Rights Foundation of America’s twelfth annual National Conference on Private Property Rights 06/21/2008: S&G quoted on Danbury, CT church denial 04/01/2008: Robert Greene to speak on exercise of eminent domain over church property 03/18/2008: Roman Storzer to testify before the Rockland County legislature regarding a resolution calling upon Congress to review RLUIPA 03/02/2008: The Washington Post reports on a Calvert County church's legal victory 02/01/2008: Roman Storzer will participate as a judge in the 2008 National Religious Freedom Moot Court held at George Washington University 10/10/2007: November RLUIPA Conference 08/08/2007: Journal News editorial discussing the firm 06/20/2007: Robert Greene to speak to New Jersey bar on religion and land use 05/18/2007: Roman Storzer addressed the American Bar Association's Section of State and Local Government Law 08/01/2006: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hands down resounding RLUIPA victory 06/07/2006: Religious school successfully defends against Title VII lawsuit 05/12/2006: Mr. Storzer speaks at Land Use Institute conference 04/25/2006: Religious organizations and commercial activity 07/01/2001: The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000: A Constitutional Response to Unconstitutional Zoning Practices

12/07/2016: Wall Street Journal reports on S&A Connecticut case

The Wall Street Journal reports on the United States Department of Justice's involvement in two RLUIPA cases, including that of S&A client Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk: "In Connecticut, the Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk filed a federal discrimination suit in 2012 after its application to build a mosque was rejected by city officials. Federal officials opened an investigation, and the two sides settled in 2014."  K. King, "Federal Government Joins New Jersey Muslims in Fight Over Mosque Approval," The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 7, 2016).

07/22/2016: S&A invited to White House event "Combating Religious Discrimination Today"

From March to June 2016, the Civil Rights Division, in partnership with U.S. Attorneys and other Federal agencies, hosted five community roundtables across the country that focused on these issues.  Additionally, the Justice Department held two roundtables in Washington, D.C., for representatives of national religious and civil rights organizations to review themes and proposals raised in the roundtables and make further recommendations

At a White House event today, the Justice Department released a report on these roundtables.  In addition to the report, the Justice Department and other federal agencies announced new steps they are taking to combat religious discrimination. 

"Combating Religious Discrimination Today," White House Blog (July 22, 2016)

See the Department of Justice's  "Final Report" on this initiative, which lists this Firm as a "Community Member Participant."

C. Crowe, "Administration announces new plans to fight religious discrimination," Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (Aug. 17, 2016)

07/21/2016: United States Justice Department's August 2016 "Religious Freedom in Focus" discusses lawsuit against Bensalem Twp, Pa.

“Our Constitution protects the rights of religious communities to build places of worship free from unlawful interference and unnecessary barriers,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, said on the day the suit was filed.  “The Department of Justice will continue to challenge unjustified local zoning actions around the country when they encroach upon this important civil right.”

"Religious Freedom in Focus, Volume 67" (August 2016).  More information about the Bensalem Masjid's lawsuit against the Township is available here.

06/30/2016: NJ.com RLUIPA article highlights four S&A clients

In New Jersey, the law came into play in recent years in Wayne and Bridgewater, both of which denied applications to build mosques. In both cases, the Muslim applicants prevailed. . . .   RLUIPA now is being invoked by the Chabad Jewish Center of Toms River, which in March sued the township and its zoning board of adjustment for blocking a religious center in a home where it had been operating since 2011. Congregation Kollel in May also cited the law in a suit against the Howell Township  Zoning Board of Adjustment, which, it said, was motivated by negative views of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. And supporters of a Jewish boarding school in January sued Ocean Township and its Zoning Board of Adjustment, again citing the law, after its application was denied last year.

T. Darragh, "Fighting for faith: Who has final say when towns deny places of worship," NJ.com (June 30, 2016)

More information on the Albanian Associated Fund, Chabad Jewish Center of Toms River, Congregation Kollel, and the Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov in Ocean Township is available here.

05/06/2016: Baltimore Jewish Times features S&A client Ariel Jewish Center and Synagogue's efforts to build in Baltimore County

Belinsky, the spiritual leader of the Ariel Jewish Center and Synagogue, a Chabad-Lubavitch congregation for Russian Jews, wants to build a permanent home for his synagogue on a 3-acre plot in Pikesville. . . .

The state court system might not be the next stop for this issue if Belinsky were to file a federal suit under [RLUIPA], which allows synagogues to be built in residential areas as a right protects religious institutions in a number of ways.  As a federal statute, it trumps local zoning code.  Roman Storzer, a top RLUIPA attorney who Belinsky recently retained, said[:] "In general, a government cannot burden religious exercise unless it uses the least restrictive means of [achieving a] compelling governmental interest . . . .  Normal zoning rules don't apply."  As far as traffic and other safety issues are concerned, Storzer said: "It's been my long experience that these types of justifications have often been used to oppose uses where they really have no merit. . . .  There has to be demonstrated evidence that there is some real threat, not simply a hypothetical or speculative threat, . . .."

M. Shapiro, "Chabad Synagogue Battle Reminiscent of Cases Around State, Country," Baltimore Jewish Times (May 6, 2016)

02/11/2016: Conservative Review discusses RLUIPA, "a younger law that works just as hard on the religious freedom front for almost none of the credit"

So, despite a Supreme Court ruling which declared RFRA’s application to states unconstitutional, there still remained a lingering issue of unconstitutional discrimination against religious institutions, especially due to what some scholars see as an “ever-increasing pressure by municipal authorities to limit their physical presence in America's cities and towns.” A 2001 article in the George Mason Law Review written by Roman P. Storzer & Anthony R. Picarello, Jr. outlines the law’s necessity in an ever-changing American religious landscape (in-text citations omitted):

While many continue in the form of the traditional suburban, stained-glass-and-steeple church, others view their missions differently. Some groups, especially those too small to purchase or rent real property, meet in houses belonging to members of the congregation. Others eschew the quiet suburbs in order to minister to those in a commercial or retail zone. Still others are called to an agricultural setting to pursue their religious exercise. Minority religions may have practices viewed as unfamiliar or distasteful by the general public. While all religious institutions ‘worship’ in the narrowest sense of the term, their additional activities differ widely in type and scope. By controlling where churches may locate, governments control the kind of mission they may pursue, and so risk forcing churches to conform to the community's vision … of the ‘proper’ church.

Nate Madden, "Why this little-known federal law is so important for religious freedom," Conservative Review (Feb. 11, 2016).

So, despite a Supreme Court ruling which declared RFRA’s application to states unconstitutional, there still remained a lingering issue of unconstitutional discrimination against religious institutions, especially due to what some scholars see as an “ever-increasing pressure by municipal authorities to limit their physical presence in America's cities and towns.” A 2001 article in the George Mason Law Review written by Roman P. Storzer & Anthony R. Picarello, Jr. outlines the law’s necessity in an ever-changing American religious landscape (in-text citations omitted):

While many continue in the form of the traditional suburban, stained-glass-and-steeple church, others view their missions differently. Some groups, especially those too small to purchase or rent real property, meet in houses belonging to members of the congregation. Others eschew the quiet suburbs in order to minister to those in a commercial or retail zone. Still others are called to an agricultural setting to pursue their religious exercise. Minority religions may have practices viewed as unfamiliar or distasteful by the general public. While all religious institutions ‘worship’ in the narrowest sense of the term, their additional activities differ widely in type and scope. By controlling where churches may locate, governments control the kind of mission they may pursue, and so risk forcing churches to conform to the community's vision … of the ‘proper’ church.

- See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2016/02/why-this-little-known-federal-law-is-so-important#sthash.sFY7vEXd.dpuf

01/13/2016: Visit S&G's new Twitter resource: RLUIPALaw

RLUIPALaw is the leading Internet resource tracking opinions, news, scholarship, and other developments related to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

02/06/2015: 2015 GW Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition

Roman Storzer served as a quarterfinal judge in George Washington University Law School's annual religious freedom moot court competition.  The 2015 problem involves claims of conscience raised by teachers against a hypothetical law in Washington, D.C. that requires teachers and administrators to carry firearms on public school property during school hours.  More information available here.

09/30/2014: S&G submits opinion letter to ANC regarding historic landmark regulation of St. Thomas church

In a letter to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B of the District of Columbia, S&G attorneys write:

[L]ocal opponents’ desire to have church ruins 'preserved in their original state, context and place' cannot outweigh the fundamental free exercise rights of a house of worship.  Forcing a church to maintain, at its own expense and its own detriment, the remnants of a religious structure based on the desires of a few who wish only to benefit from—but not support the costs of—such structure, irrespective of the church’s needs, is neither reasonable nor permitted under the law.

The ANC 2B then adopted a resolution stating in part

Whereas, the ANC in prior church construction or renovation projects has had concerns that the HPRB does not take into account applicable constitutional and federal law–including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA)–and that these federal laws supersede the HPRB’s own regulations and impose further limitations the HPRB’s authority.

Therefore, be it RESOLVED that ANC 2B does not object to the concept and massing of the religious component of the project and strongly urges the HPRB to take seriously its duty to follow applicable federal law–including RFRA and RLUIPA–by not imposing undue burdens on the use of this property for religious purposes;

Read our opinion letter here and the ANC's Resolution here.

08/16/2014: RLUIPA law review article by S&G attorneys selected for inclusion in Thomson Reuters' Zoning and Planning Law Handbook, 2014 edition

“Christian Parking, Hindu Parking: Applying Established Civil Rights Principles to RLUIPA’s Nondiscrimination Provision,” published at 16 Rich. J. L. & Pub. Int. 295 (2013), has been selected to be reprinted in the Zoning and Planning Law Handbook.  The Handbook "opens with a survey of recent developments in zoning and land use law, including Supreme Court and lower court decisions and legislative and administrative activity. The handbook offers a cutting-edge perspective on the most critical land use, zoning law, and conservation issues of our time."

Purchase information available here.

03/12/2014: S&G becomes a Cooperating Organization with the PBS "God In America" series Defending Religious Liberty in the 21st Century

   Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C. welcomes God in America viewers to our website at www.storzerandgreene.com, which contains information about our work in the modern day defense of religious liberty. The pages located here describe various kinds of government actions that inhibit the rights of people to freely practice their religious faith. Our cases involve the Amish, Native Americans, Buddhists, various Christian denominations, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others. We believe that religious liberty for all is a critical part of our American experience.

Read more about the "God in America" series here, and the full list of participating organizations here.

One of the major threats to religious liberty today is local government attempts to limit religious communities building or improving their facilities through zoning and land use laws. These issues were specifically addressed by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), a federal statute enacted to clarify the rights of religious groups to build churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, religious schools, fellowship halls, social service facilities and more. Many of the stories you will see on these pages deal with our work in this sphere. Both Mr. Storzer and Mr. Greene have been involved in RLUIPA cases since its enactment. You will also find a link here to our writing, conference details, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent report on the 10th Anniversary of RLUIPA.

We see our work as the modern day extension of the efforts of the early American champions of religious liberty, those seen in the God In America seers and others such as WIlliam Penn and Roger Williams. We hope this site helps round out your knowledge of the ongoing efforts to continue the work of the Founders.

03/12/2014: Storzer & Greene attorneys co-author article on RLUIPA's "Nondiscrimination" provision

Examining 42 U.S.C. 2000cc(b)(2)--which prohibits "government [from] impos[ing] or implement[ing] a land use regulation that discriminates against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination"--the authors argue that the law's protections are needed now more than ever:

While there is ample evidence of discrimination—both overt and surreptitious—violative of RLUIPA, some commentators continue to argue that religious groups simply do not face discrimination during the land use regulation process and that stakeholders in such regulation are only concerned with legitimate land use issues. They are plainly wrong. While there is no question that local zoning boards and other regulatory bodies are often motivated by sincere concerns about matters such as traffic, environmental protection, and adherence to building codes, it is also true that such reasons are often used as a façade for invidious discrimination. Also, it is far more frequent that minority faiths and those that are unfamiliar to local residents suffer from such intolerance

Christian Parking, Hindu Parking: Applying Established Civil Rights Principles to RLUIPA's Nondiscrimination Provision, 16 Richmond J. of L. and the Public Interest 295 (Winter 2013).