As soon as Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court, people on both sides of the political aisle began taking a fine tooth comb through his life, credit card bills, and court opinions. Some unearthed evidence that he accumulated tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets—evidence which immediately made Detroit Tiger fan Dan Dalton jealous. Others looked for signs as to whether he’d overturn Roe v. Wade. But beyond the interest in baseball and babies, a few have focused on Kavanaugh’s pro bono work defending religious liberty in general and in the land use context in particular. Allison Kaplan Sommer of Haaretz recently wrote an article describing how Kavanaugh, who is Catholic, worked on a pro bono legal team which defended a Jewish congregation’s effort to establish a shul in Bethesda, Maryland.
For religious land use nerds litigators like us at Dalton & Tomich, a Supreme Court Justice’s history of defending religious liberty in the land use context is certainly noteworthy. Because of our work defending religious groups all across the country under the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), we have seen how local land use regulations can be the greatest threat to religious liberty in America. How can religious freedom exist when religious groups cannot find a place to meet and engage in their religious activities?
Though judges and justices are tasked with applying the laws as written, their familiarity with an area of the law or with the plight of certain kinds of plaintiffs gives them a better appreciation for what is at stake in a case. After Neil Gorsuch was nominated to the Supreme Court, I was encouraged by the fact that he personally listed a RLUIPA case, Yellowbear v. Lampert, 741 F.3d 48 (10th Cir. 2014), as one of the ten most significant cases over which he presided. Justice Sotomayor quoted favorably to Judge Gorsuch’s Yellowbear decision in a similar religious liberty case the Supreme Court decided in 2015.
While the Supreme Court decided a RLUIPA case involving an institutionalized person in 2015, Holt v. Hobbs, it has yet to take a land use case. But given the split in the lower courts over how RLUIPA should be applied in the land use context, and because of the growing number conflicts between religious groups and municipalities, it may not be too long before the Supreme Court decides to weigh in. When that case arises, the religious land use plaintiff will find in Brett Kavanaugh an individual who chaired the Federalist Society’s Religious Liberty practice group, wrote amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court in defense of religious freedom, and successfully defended a synagogue in a local land use case. His record reveals an individual familiar with the real problems religious groups face at the local level and the need to protect the civil rights of all religious groups.
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.
In 2015, Hope Rising Community Church experienced extreme opposition, the kind that would force it to close its doors and leave behind the families and youth it was so passionate about reaching. As the lead pastor I felt helpless, inferior and as if I had no […]Read More
Dalton & Tomich’s assistance in our RLUIPA matter has paved the way for our church to continue serving the community and for new churches in the area to thrive in the future. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your stand for religious […]Read More
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Dalton & Tomich, PLC helped us immensely in the areas of litigation and negotiation! Their professionalism and understanding of church policy helped our church be victorious in a modern day religious land use battle. RLUIPA Religious Land Use Case: Lighthouse Community Church of GodRead More
Dalton & Tomich, PLC serves as General Counsel for the 144 churches within the Church of God in Michigan. The firm provides the legal expertise we need in dealing with the issues that arise during the course of fulfilling our ministry.Read More
I met Dan Dalton during a dark time for our church. He was recommended as the leading RLUIPA attorney in the nation. He demonstrated wisdom, expertise, a gentle nature, a calming inter-relational skill, genuineness, and a humble demeanor, while at the same time, being sharp, […]Read More
Mr. Dalton’s expertise and experience helped us through a very difficult legal journey, ultimately achieving a favorable outcome. His personal interest in helping our church went “above and beyond” just the call of duty. His understanding of both legal and spiritual matters seems to uniquely […]Read More