Last night I was honored to speak on a panel hosted by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice at Marquette Law School in Milwaukee, WI. The panel discussion was part of the United States Attorney General’s Place to Worship Initiative and was entitled “Building Faith: Protecting Religious Freedom Through Land Use Laws.” I was joined on the panel by my former client Pastor Dennis Virta of River Hills Church in Sauk City, WI, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Yun, and Milwaukee-area attorney Michael Dean (who assisted me as local counsel in a successful religious land use suit against Milwaukee in 2013).
The event was well attended. Nearly seventy people from a wide variety of faith groups were there to learn more about how the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) protects their places of worship and can help them overcome unjust land use regulations. I was able to speak about the many cases we have successfully litigated all across the country. My former client Pastor Dennis Virta was able to personally share about how I employed RLUIPA to help save his church. Pastor Virta’s church is now a thriving and contributing part of the Sauk City community.
Despite RLUIPA’s protections, religious institutions and assemblies are increasingly finding it difficult to secure land on which to operate or expand. Local governments are often opposed to “losing” property to religious groups because they are only focused on preserving their property tax revenue. In some communities, it is nearly impossible to start a new place of worship or expand. The heart of our work at Dalton & Tomich is to help religious institutions and assemblies better understand what they can do to overcome the land use and zoning obstacles which are standing in the way of their growth and development.
We appreciate all the Department of Justice is doing in and through its Place to Worship Initiative to raise awareness in this area. I want to thank United States Attorney Ryan Lee for inviting me to share about how we have successfully protected religious communities across the country both in and out of court. If you have additional questions regarding RLUIPA, please feel free to contact me.
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 .Download Now
The attorneys of Dalton & Tomich, PLC have the experience and the knowledge to work with you to develop a legal solution that helps accomplish your goals. Our collaborative approach has helped leaders like you grow businesses and banks, develop and expand churches, and build nonprofit organizations nationwide.
In my role as Administrative Bishop for the Church of God, quite often we are faced with issues that involve local governments and municipalities. Many of these issues that arise in dealing with entities are land use related. I have found Dalton & Tomich’s experience and expertise in this area to be a valuable resource and asset in every situation.
Never one time during a year-long litigation process did Dalton & Tomich demonstrate anything other than Christ-like professionalism. They managed the legal details, while we continued to do church. How they managed themselves, managed our case, and represented our church set the table for me and our church to be where we are today.
Dalton & Tomich’s expertise and experience helped us through a very difficult legal journey, ultimately achieving a favorable outcome. Their personal interest in helping us went “above and beyond” just the call of duty.