We guide owners, including religious organizations, through the often confusing maze of local entitlements. Our attorneys defend the rights of churches and other religious organizations across the country regarding religious land use and zoning matters.
Our experience helps protect the rights of churches and religious organizations in their free exercise of their beliefs without impermissible governmental interference.
We find the answer may be as simple as meeting with the municipality’s representatives to explain the legal rights of churches and religious organizations. However, if a municipality continues to subject a religious organization to unlawful discriminatory and impermissible regulations, we will do what is necessary–including filing a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief, the recovery of damages, and attorney’s fees against the municipality in either state or federal court to protect religious rights.
Churches and other religious organizations should be able to freely operate and expand to meet the needs of their congregation. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, speech, and assembly. In addition, the United States Congress has enacted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits zoning laws that discriminate on the basis of religion, treat religious organizations on less than equal terms with nonreligious institutions, or unlawfully place a substantial burden on religious exercise.
Despite the legal protections afforded to churches and religious organizations, municipalities sometimes discriminate against religious organizations, many times because there is political pressure from communities who object to the expansion of religious facilities. These municipalities might impose significant restrictions on the religious use of property, significantly delay zoning approvals, or act in such a way that results in the religious organization having to incur additional costs in constructing or expanding a place of worship, religious school, or other religious facility.