Religious Land Use and Zoning Leaders

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Quick RLUIPA Win in New York: Consent Decree Frees Mount Zion Ministries Church to Locate in Whitestown

The only thing better than a win is a quick win. Case in point, just over a week after we filed suit on behalf of Mount Zion Ministries Church (also operating as Redeemer Church), we were able to obtain an order protecting the church’s right to use its property for religious assembly. The church acquired property in the Town of Whitestown, N.Y. on January 8, 2020.  Under Whitestown’s Zoning Code, nonreligious assembly uses (e.g. clubs, lodges, and municipal buildings) are permitted at the property but religious assembly uses are not. Because this unequal treatment constitutes a facial violation of the “equal terms” provision of the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §2000cc(b)(1), we filed suit seeking immediate injunctive and declaratory relief from the unequal terms. Our experience litigating these cases and negotiating with municipalities across the country helped us secure our client’s rights without months, if not years, of costly litigation.

When it comes to litigating religious land use cases, the value in both time and money of having an experienced attorney on your side can’t be overstated. While not every case presents an opportunity for a quick and efficient win (because many municipalities decide to fight tooth and nail), an inexperienced attorney is more likely to miss opportunities and cost their client tons of time and money. Our goal at Dalton & Tomich is not just to help our clients accomplish their objectives but to help them accomplish them sooner rather than later. We are so thankful that the church can now focus on working together with Town officials to better serve the Whitestown community. We also appreciate the responsiveness of the Town board and Town attorney.

This case is another reminder of how important it is for religious institutions (churches, synagogues, mosques, religious schools, etc.) to be aware of the significant protections they are afforded under federal law. Far too many religious institutions are losing opportunities to better serve their communities because they are not familiar with RLUIPA.

Free Church Land Use and Zoning Guide

Have you recently purchased a building or land and discovered you can’t use it because it isn’t zoned for religious assembly? Learn how to navigate the process and win the right to use your property .

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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.