02/15/2017: United States Department of Justice investigates denial of land use application for S&A client Coptic Orthodox Church Archdiocese of North America
The Archdiocese filed a complaint in federal district court in September 2016 against the township and its Zoning Board of Adjustment. The suit, filed Sept. 30, is in response to the Cedar Grove Zoning Board of Adjustment's decision to turn down a proposal for St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, located at 5 Woodstone Drive, to expand. The suit claims that the denial violates the rights for a religious organization to improve itself, and that the decision was made without any compelling governmental reason.
The U.S. Department of Justice opened its own investigation in Cedar Grove related to the suit, Township Attorney Joshua Zielinski said. The township provided information for the investigation but Zielinski declined further comment.
J. Jongsma, "Cedar Grove, Coptic Church suit heads to mediation; Department of Justice investigates," NorthJersey.com (Feb. 15, 2017)
10/01/2016: Coptic Orthodox Church files suit against Cedar Grove
On September 30, 2016, the Coptic Orthodox Church Archdiocese of North America filed suit against the Township of Cedar Grove, N.J., challenging the denial of its variance application to replace an aging, inadequate church building with a place of worship that meets its religious needs.
According to the complaint, “The Church has suffered from overcrowding; an inability to provide sufficient religious education, weddings and funerals, and other activities; and most of the seats in the structure do not even have a direct view of the altar and are forced to watch on closed-circuit televisions. Furthermore, the current building, which looks like an office building, falls far short from meeting the requirements of a Coptic Orthodox church.”
“There is no question that forcing the Church to retain its inadequate structure and preventing it from engaging in important religious practices—as well as forbidding it from displaying to the world its Coptic Orthodox faith through religious architecture—substantially burdens its religious exercise. The Board has chosen to deny the application for no good reason,” stated Robert L. Greene [of Storzer & Associates], counsel for the Church. “This is a violation of important constitutional freedoms we all enjoy under the First Amendment, and as protected by RLUIPA.”
See "Coptic Orthodox Church Files Suit Against Cedar Grove Township and Zoning Board" (Oct. 1, 2016)