Fla. church zoned out of building gets day in court

Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney available for comment following hearing
Monday, February 17, 2014

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney Daniel P. Dalton
WHAT: Available for media interviews immediately following hearing in Church of Our Savior v. City of Jacksonville Beach
WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 18, immediately following hearing which begins at 10 a.m. EST
WHERE: Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse, Courtroom 10(d), 300 N. Hogan St., Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney Daniel P. Dalton will be available for media interviews immediately following a hearing before the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida Tuesday in a lawsuit involving a church twice denied a property permit because the city of Jacksonville Beach would prefer the building be used for something else.

The church filed suit in October of last year, explaining that its freedoms have been violated under a federal law that prohibits zoning discrimination on the basis of religion. At the hearing, Dalton will argue in favor of a court order that will require the city to stop discriminating against the church while its case moves forward in court.

“City zoning restrictions cannot be used to shut down existing religious community services just because the city wants to have a building used for other purposes. Federal law protects ministries from being targeted in this way,” said Dalton of the Michigan firm Dalton & Tomich PLC. Dalton is litigating the case together with allied attorney Charles L. Stambaugh of the Jacksonville firm Stambaugh & Associates, P.A.

In March 2013, Church of Our Savior, formerly known as Resurrection Anglican Church, applied for a permit to build a church on property it purchased to accommodate its growing membership. Although the Department of Planning and Development verified that the church met all of the city’s mandated standards, the Planning Commission denied the permit, claiming “the church was not consistent with the character of the neighborhood.”

The church submitted a second application in September 2013, but the commission denied it on the same grounds. The church then filed the lawsuit Church of Our Savior v. The City of Jacksonville Beach in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division, arguing that the city’s actions violate the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

In enacting RLUIPA, Congress stated, “Churches and synagogues cannot function without physical space adequate to their needs and consistent with their theological requirements. The right to build, buy, or rent such a space is an indispensable adjunct of the core First Amendment right to assemble for religious purposes.”

“The law ensures that a city’s zoning restrictions don’t single out ministries for discrimination and penalize them because of their religious viewpoint,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco. “The city should do the right thing and grant Church of Our Savior a permit to build its church so it can fulfill its mission and continue to serve its community.”
  • Fact sheet: Church of Our Savior v. City of Jacksonville Beach

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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