I recently came across a federal District Court decision which gives an excellent primer on the analytical framework for a facial attack on a set of local land use regulations under RLUIPA, as well as the U.S. Constitution. Facial attacks on land use regulations are among the most difficult to prove, . . . .
This case is an excellent example of . . . how to try a RLUIPA case, . . . .
Commentary, "Tartikov v. Pomona and RLUIPA," Lexology Newsfeed (Jan. 5. 2018) read more »
01/01/2018: 2017 Highlights
Storzer & Associates continued to defend the religious freedom of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other religious institutions in 2017, with several significant court decisions and settlements. Protecting these rights under the Constitution, RLUIPA and the Fair Housing Act remained a priority for the firm. Some notable events of the past year include:
Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov successful at trial, winning RLUIPA, Fair Housing Act and constitutional claims against Village of Pomona, N.Y.: S. Lieberman, "Judge says Pomona zoning is discriminatory for dorm school," LoHud.com (Dec. 7, 2017); The decision is available here: Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov v. Village of Pomona, Civ. No. 07-6304 (Dec. 7, 2017); "Rabbinical College Wins Challenge To Zoning and Environmental Laws," Religion Clause (Dec. 8, 2017)
Hunt Valley Baptist Church receives favorable decision in suit against Baltimore County: "Church Can Move Ahead With RLUIPA Challenges To Zoning Refusal," Catholic News Live (Oct. 19, 2017); Hunt Valley Baptist Church v. Baltimore County, Civ. No. 17-804 (Oct. 17, 2017)
Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness successful in action to retain control over New York temple. S&A client GBC granted possession of temple and assets in case raising multiple constitutional issues: Kelley v. Garuda (Nassau Cy. Sup.Ct. Oct. 2, 2017); "New York State Court Renders Historic Decision in favor of Hare Krishna Movement," ISKCON News (Oct. 8, 2017)
Bensalem Masjid settles lawsuits brought by S&A and United States Department of Justice against Bensalem Township, Pa.: M. Fair, "Pa. Town, DOJ Ink Settlement In Mosque Discrimination Row," Law360 (Sept. 5, 2017); United States Department of Justice, "United States Resolves Suit Against Pennsylvania Township Over Denial of Approval for Mosque," Religious Freedom in Focus Vol. 71 (September 2017); Department of Justice Press Release (Sept. 5, 2017); J. Ax, "Pennsylvania town settles lawsuit brought by U.S. over mosque rejection," WTVB (Sept. 5, 2017)
Federal court rules in favor of Congregation Kollel in its suit against Howell Township, N.J., permits most claims to go forward: Opinion, Congregation Kollel, Inc. v. Township of Howell, N.J. (D.N.J. Feb. 16, 2017); K. Kachmar, "Orthodox bias suit against Howell can move ahead," USA Today (Feb. 24, 2017)
N.J. Township permits S&A clients to build eruv: M. Davis, "Jackson eruv can be built, Orthodox Jews still hope for school," APP.com (Dec. 12, 2017)
Hunt Valley Presbyterian Church challenges conditions placed on approval: B. Zumer, "Fourth congregation sues Baltimore County over land use rules," Fox45 News
United States Department of Justice and N.J. Attorney General's office investigate Township after it adopts laws targeting S&A clients: A. Bogues, "Jackson: Justice Department, NJ probe anti-Semitic discrimination claims," APP.com (Dec. 14, 2017)
Workshop: S&A attorneys provide guidance on religious land use rights: Agudath Israel, "Agudah Workshop Provides Guidance on Land Use and Zoning Laws as New Jewish Communities Evolve," (Oct. 24, 2017)
S&A clients amend lawsuit against Jackson Township, N.J. to include challenge to eruv ban: J. Peacock, "Groups’ Amended Jackson Lawsuit Now Includes Eruvin," Jersey Shore Online (Nov. 2, 2017)
Baltimore pastor files suit against Baltimore County after church application denial: A. Knezevich, "Baltimore County faces another lawsuit alleging religious discrimination in zoning case," Baltimore Sun (Oct. 16, 2017)
Politico reports U.S. Justice Department investigating Woodcliff Lake, N.J. over treatment of S&A client Valley Chabad: M. Friedman, "Feds launch religious discrimination probe into town led by Guadagno's running mate," Politico (Sept. 22, 2017)
Agudath Israel of America, represented by S&A, challenges Jackson Township, N.J.'s dormitory and school ordinances: M. Rosman, "Jackson dormitory ban draws lawsuit from advocacy group," (May 30, 2017)
Article discusses four S&A cases in New Jersey: M. Davis, "Shore towns brace for fallout after mosque wins court battle," APP.com (May 31, 2017)
Editorial discusses Valley Chabad litigation: "Freedom to worship in New Jersey," NorthJersey.com (June 1, 2017)
Tartikov's challenge to Pomona, N.Y.'s targeted ordinances heads to trial: R. Brum, "Pomona's fight against religious school goes to trial," LoHud (May 14, 2017)
Russian community synagogue files RLUIPA suit against Baltimore County for denial under "Byzantine" zoning regulations: Release, "ARIEL Russian Community Synagogue Files Federal Lawsuit Against Baltimore County and Board of Appeals," Baltimore Jewish Life (Apr. 14, 2017); A. Knezevich, "Baltimore County faces federal lawsuits alleging religious discrimination in zoning cases," Baltimore Sun (Apr. 12, 2017)
S&A client Hunt Valley Baptist Church files suit against Baltimore County after denial of special exception: B. Zumer, "Hunt Valley Baptist Church sues Baltimore County after expansion denial," Fox45 News (Mar. 24, 2017); A. Burnett, "Religious Litigation Arises in Baltimore County," WJZ (Apr. 13, 2017); D. Weiner, "Church, synagogue suing Baltimore County over religious discrimination," WBAL TV11 (Apr. 14, 2017)
United States Department of Justice investigates denial of land use application for S&A client Coptic Orthodox Church Archdiocese of North America: J. Jongsma, "Cedar Grove, Coptic Church suit heads to mediation; Department of Justice investigates," NorthJersey.com (Feb. 15, 2017) read more »
Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov v. Village of Pomona, N.Y.
12/07/2017: Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov successful at trial, winning RLUIPA, Fair Housing Act and constitutional claims against Village of Pomona, N.Y.
Trial Decision: S&A client Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov wins challenge to targeted zoning ordinances prohibiting student family housing and otherwise regulating educational uses:
[The court] found the village defense of its laws lacking, and that Tartikov's attorneys showed certain aspects of the zoning were "enacted for an improper, discriminatory purpose" and therefore invalid. "The defendants construct an interesting theory, for that is all that it is," Karas said. "They have no evidence to back it up. In any event, none this theorizing changes in any way the overwhelming evidence of discriminatory animus, or (the) fact this law served no compelling interest."
S. Lieberman, "Judge says Pomona zoning is discriminatory for dorm school," LoHud.com (Dec. 7, 2017)
The court held that the ordinances violate multiple provisions of RLUIPA, the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, the New York Constitution's protections of religious freedom and equal protection, the Fair Housing Act, and freedom of association principles. S&A joined co-counsel Savad Churgin and John Stepanovich in representing the Rabbinical College.
The decision is available here: Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov v. Village of Pomona, Civ. No. 07-6304 (Dec. 7, 2017); "Rabbinical College Wins Challenge To Zoning and Environmental Laws," Religion Clause (Dec. 8, 2017) read more »
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) read more »
S&A client GBC granted possession of temple and assets in case raising multiple constitutional issues:
The longstanding rule enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in 1871 is that civil courts must defer to the determinations of a hierarchical religious institution's highest ecclesiastical body. Watson v. Jones involved a religious property dispute over two rival factions who sought control of a church property in Louisville, Kentucky. 80 U.S. at 681. . . . Guided by the foregoing principles in the instant dispute, we find that ISKCON is a hierarchical religious organization and shall apply the neutral principles of law doctrine to resolve whether the Plaintiffs are entitled to use, control and possession of the Freeport Temple property.
Accordingly, insofar as the Plaintiffs seek a declaration as to membership within ISKCON or whether the GBC acted appropriately in expelling the Defendants and appointing new trustees, this Court shall defer to the resolutions passed by the GBC in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
Kelley v. Garuda (Nassau Cy. Sup.Ct. Oct. 2, 2017)
New York Supreme Court Justice Randi Sue Marber in her October 2 decision agreed with Hare Krishna Movement leadership and recognized the legal status of this ancient religious tradition and the hierarchical governance structure of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
"New York State Court Renders Historic Decision in favor of Hare Krishna Movement," ISKCON News (Oct. 8, 2017) read more »