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Church Secures Right to Worship and $225,000 in Settlement with the City of Markham, IL

Written by Noel Sterett on July 24, 2019 Category: Firm News, Land Use and Zoning, RLUIPA, RLUIPA Cases
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For more than six years, the City of Markham fought our client, the Church of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in both state and federal court over the church’s right to continue meeting in its sanctuary at 16018 S. Spaulding Avenue. We asserted the Church’s rights under the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act. Last year the trial court ruled for the City, but earlier this year the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. We discussed the Seventh Circuit’s decision in a previous blog post.

After losing at the court of appeals, the City agreed to settle the suit with the church and consented to an order treating the church’s use as a legal use of the property. The final consent order was entered Wednesday, July 24, 2019. The City also agreed to pay $225,000 to settle the church’s claims to attorneys’ fees, costs, and damages.

“We praise God for this resolution and are so thankful for our attorney Noel Sterett whose prayer and perseverance have meant so much to our small church. We remain amazed at the lengths the City went to oppose us. The tens of thousands of dollars that have been spent fighting my congregation would’ve been better spent addressing the many needs in the Markham community,” said the Church’s pastor, Rev. Reginald McCracken.

No religious group should have to go through what this church went through to secure its ability to gather for worship in its community. But cases like these are not uncommon. Religious groups need to be aware of the protections they are afforded under federal law and municipalities would do well to understand the law as well.

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Dalton & Tomich, PLC is the national leader in successfully helping churches, other religious institutions and their insurers defend their rights in land use and zoning matters under RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. We have helped clients win cases against municipalities and other local government bodies from coast to coast, with experience serving both as general counsel and special litigation counsel.