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Dalton & Tomich Secures Settlement for Mississippi Christian-Based Recovery Facility

Written by Kate Brink Harrison on November 18, 2013 Category: Firm News, Land Use and Zoning, RLUIPA

Dalton & Tomich attorneys have helped secure a legal settlement that allows their client, a non-profit recovery center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to provide long-term housing for single mothers recovering from addiction.

Lighthouse Rescue Mission provides housing, treatment, and Christian-based religious services to single mothers who are in recovery from addiction as well as their children. In 2005, Lighthouse purchased a former elementary school building in Hattiesburg and began renovations to turn the structure into a worship facility and overnight shelter for its participants. However, the City refused to allow Lighthouse to house the women and children overnight at the facility because the school was located in a residential zone. When Lighthouse applied for a zoning change for the structure that would allow it to offer overnight stay, both the Planning Commission and City Council rejected the application. Lighthouse next applied for a conditional use permit, which the City Council approved with respect to offering worship services but explicitly prohibited Lighthouse from providing overnight stay.

With no other options available to it, Lighthouse filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in May. In the lawsuit, Lighthouse challenged Hattiesburg’s zoning regulations as violative of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), the Fair Housing Act, and the United States and Mississippi Constitutions.

On November 7, 2013, the parties reached a settlement agreement under which Hattiesburg agrees to allow Lighthouse to provide long-term overnight housing to the single mothers and children that participate in its religious ministry. Hattiesburg also agreed to pay damages to Lighthouse as well as its attorney fees.

Dalton & Tomich attorneys have extensive experience representing a wide variety of religious institutions nationwide. Feel free to contact us if you believe we can be of assistance to you or your organization.

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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.