Religious Institutions

News & Analysis as of

Preserving Constitutional Issues: Three States, Three Cases, One Hard Lesson

Late last year, three states illustrated an important point about preserving constitutional law issues for appeal: always be on the lookout for constitutional law issues at the beginning of the case. ...more

Is It the End of the Johnson Amendment as We Know It?

While speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 2017, President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to repeal the law that restricts organizations that are tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue...more

Church’s RLUIPA Claim Against an Illinois City is “Likely to Succeed”

The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the City of Markham from requiring the Original Bible Church of Illinois to obtain conditional use approval to use property...more

Property Tax Exemption Application Deadline Approaches

March 1st is the deadline for filing all property tax exemption applications in the state of Florida. No matter in which of the 67 Florida counties you own property, please be certain that any property tax exemptions you may...more

Tax Court Puts Brakes on Recent Trend Limiting Religious/Non-Profit Exemptions

In a recent tax court case, Holy Trinity Baptist Church v. City of Trenton (Docket No. 015909-2014, February 2, 2017), the court overturned the findings of the County Board of Taxation and upheld the tax exemption for...more

Who owns God’s Property? Shifting Politics Cost Some Congregations Their Church

Re-alignment of a congregation with a new denomination is typically driven by ideals, but as usual, money becomes the bone of contention....more

Signs 4 JC Shown the Light by NH District Court

Thou shall have the right to an electronic sign? Apparently not. Just over a year ago, Hillside Baptist Church and Signs for Jesus (together, Plaintiffs or Church) filed a complaint in the District Court for New Hampshire,...more

Religious Institutions Update: February 2017

Timely Topics - A draft executive order of President Donald Trump relating to religious freedom proposes several material changes to federal law. First, it would require the executive branches to recognize a broad scope...more

Denial of Site Plan Application to Construct a Mosque Held to Violate RLUIPA

On December 31, 2016, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp of the District of New Jersey, authored a 57 page opinion granting partial summary judgment to plaintiffs, The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (“Islamic Society”)...more

Nashville Islamic Center’s Religious Discrimination Claims Dismissed

A federal district court in Tennessee recently dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction a claim by the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) lawsuit challenging a Tennessee property tax exemption law on religious freedom...more

Church defeats lawsuit by volunteer after stepladder accident. Duelling OHS experts’ testimony considered

A volunteer has lost his lawsuit against a church after he fell off a stepladder he was using at the church. The volunteer was a parishioner at the church who agreed to help with painting. He claimed that the church’s...more

Settlement Reached Allowing Construction of Muslim Cemetery in Dudley, MA

Following some last minute hand-wringing, nearly a year of hearings and deliberations by the Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”) and accusations of religious bias, the Town of Dudley agreed to a deal that would allow a proposed...more

DOJ’s RLUIPA Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss

A federal court in Pennsylvania has denied Bensalem Township’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice challenging the Township’s denial of a use variance for a mosque. The lawsuit...more

Third Circuit Upholds District Court Decision in Pennsylvania Baptist Church Sign Case

Recently, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals entered an order upholding the district court’s decision in the case of Tearpock-Martini v. Shickshinny Borough, which we reported on last summer. The case involved an...more

Missouri Church Wins Digital Sign Appeal

The Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that the Kansas City, Missouri, Board of Adjustment abused its discretion in failing to grant a variance to Antioch Community Church (Church) to install digital components into its...more

U.S. Supreme Court to Consider ERISA Church Plan Exemption

In a decision that may have profound consequences for the funding and continued operation of defined benefit retirement plans covering employees at religiously affiliated organizations, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to...more

Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Damage Caps As Applied To The Sexual Assault Of A Minor

Except for certain limited circumstances, Ohio law limits, or caps, the maximum amount a person can recover for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. The Ohio Supreme Court recently upheld this limitation of damages...more

DOJ Claims that County’s Denial of a Sewer Permit Violates RLUIPA

Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department (“DOJ”) filed suit in District Court for the Western District of Virginia against the Culpeper County Virginia Board of Supervisors alleging it acted in a discriminatory manor...more

The Supreme Court’s New Church Plan Cases — How They Might Affect ERISA Litigation Generally

Seyfarth Synopsis: The Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in three Church Plan cases presents the possibility that many Church Plans thought for years to be exempt from ERISA rules, including its funding rules, will now have...more

Not All Faith-Based Communications Are Protected By The Clergy-Penitent Privilege

The clergy-penitent privilege (also known as the clergy privilege, confessional privilege, priest–penitent privilege, clergyman–communicant privilege, and/or ecclesiastical privilege) is a recognized form of privileged...more

Port Jervis, NY Sued by DOJ; Settles Two Days Later

The City of Port Jervis, New York has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that the City’s revision to its zoning code violated the Religious Land Use &...more

RLUIPA Round-Up: Happy Cyber Monday

Take a break from the sales and give the Round-Up a read: ABC Channel 9 in Sioux City reports on a US Justice Department inquiry into the proposed siting of Our Savior Lutheran Church in a former Budweiser warehouse in...more

Facial RLUIPA Claims Against Mobile, AL Dismissed

Earlier this year, the Thai Meditation Association of Alabama and several individual plaintiffs (“the Center”) filed suit against the City of Mobile, Alabama (“the City”), alleging that the denial of its application to...more

$1.7 Million Settlement with DOJ and CAIR-MI

In 2011, Pittsfield Charter Township denied, allegedly without deliberation, Michigan Islamic Academy’s (“MIA”) application to rezone a 26 acre parcel (the “Property”) to allow the development of a pre-K through grade 12...more

Religious Institutions Update: October 2016

Timely Topics - The final rule implementing Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on May...more

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