On Friday, September 27, the United States District Court of the Western District of Michigan entered a Consent Decree securing Hope Lutheran Church’s right to continue meeting at 132 S. State St. in St. Ignace, Michigan. In addition to the consent decree, the City agreed to pay the Church over $60,000 to settle the Church’s claims to damages and attorneys’ fees.
The consent decree and settlement payment bring a successful end to the lawsuit Dalton & Tomich attorneys Noel Sterett and Larry Opalewski filed last fall. Hope Lutheran filed suit after City officials said the property was not zoned for a church. The suit asserted claims under the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) which requires municipalities to treat religious assemblies and nonreligious assemblies equally. Because St. Ignace’s Zoning Code freely permits assembly halls, townhalls, and theaters at the property, it was unlawful for St. Ignace to prohibit religious assemblies there. The federal law is designed to ensure that the religious content of an assembly use is not used to determine whether it is permitted or prohibited from a certain zone.
This excellent and swift result is another example of Dalton & Tomich’s commitment to securing the religious land use rights of its clients all across the country. 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.
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
The Urban Church will be forever grateful to Dalton & Tomich plc for navigating it through a difficult land use issue. Let them give you honest and caring advice because that’s exactly what they’ll do.Read More
Dalton & Tomich, PLC defended a complicated case at a church we insure. Not only is the firm professional, they understand how church business runs and work well within church leadership.Read More
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