The week between Christmas and New Year’s provides a moment to slow down and reflect on the year that has come and gone. While harried lawyers can miss this moment in the rush to turn the calendar over and start on next year’s work, reflection is necessary for both personal and professional growth. Reflection can also give rise to gratitude for the victories won and the progress made. Here is a list of just some of the religious liberty matters for which I am thankful:
In January, we obtained a federal court order protecting the church’s right to keep its parking lot open to the public. The church considers its parking lot to be a God-given resource that it can use to show “biblically-based hospitality.” Due to its proximity to the beach, the free parking attracts people to the church and affords the church a unique opportunity to serve the community. After the City fined the church for not restricting its parking lot to those with a “legitimate church purpose,” we filed suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) and won. The City also agreed to pay the church’s reasonable attorney fees.
The church had acquired a six-acre parcel of property located in an Agricultural District of Hinds County, MS, with the intention of using the property for religious assembly, prayer, and worship. After county officials found out the church wanted to meet on the property, the church was told it needed to have the property rezoned to a special use district. The church then applied to have the property rezoned, only to have its application ultimately denied on April 19, 2021–after months of waiting and multiple hearings.
Under the County Zoning Ordinance, several nonreligious assembly uses, such as gymnasiums and arenas, are allowed to locate in the Agricultural District as of right, while religious assembly uses, such as churches, mosques and synagogues, are not allowed to locate there without obtaining special approval. We filed suit challenging these unequal terms under RLUIPA and obtained a court order securing the Church’s right to assemble for worship on its property.
Every year, many religious groups across the country suffer adverse zoning decisions and do not realize that there is a federal law that gives them substantial rights. No church in this country should have to fight for its right to gather for worship on land where other non-religious assemblies are freely allowed.
Sandra Rojas is a pediatric nurse who worked for the Winnebago County Health Department for 18 years. She went into pediatrics to make children’s lives better. In 2016, nurse Rojas was told she could no longer keep at her job at the county’s health clinic if she was not willing take on new job duties, which included providing abortion referrals and abortifacients. Rojas exercised her rights under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which protects a nurse’s right to not participate in medical services which violate her conscience.
After years of litigation, nurse Rojas’s case finally proceeded to trial in early 2021. After a three-day bench trial, the Court ultimately ruled for nurse Rojas in October. Nurse Rojas’s case stands as a seminal case under the Health Care Right of Conscience Act and is a win for all health care professionals throughout Illinois.
While the lawsuits are often what make the headlines, we are just as thankful for all those religious liberty matters we were able to resolve out of court. In 2021, the attorneys at Dalton & Tomich helped many congregations exercise their religious freedom to leave their denomination and keep their properties. We also helped other religious institutions address a variety of legal issues which threatened their ability to accomplish their noble missions.
With 2021 now behind us, we look forward to continuing to help religious institutions across the country secure their religious land use rights, exercise their religious freedoms, and accomplish their noble missions.
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