The City of San Leandro, California has agreed to a settlement agreement in which it will pay the International Church of Foursquare Gospel $2.3 million in order to end its five-year litigation with the Church. The case had worked its way through the Ninth Circuit and even reached the United States Supreme Court. Daniel Dalton, founding partner at Dalton & Tomich plc, submitted an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the Church. The Court of Appeals accepted the brief and used the arguments in its opinion affirming religious liberty.
In 2007, the Church attempted to relocate its rapidly growing congregation to an industrial area within San Leandro. The City refused, alleging the Church’s proposed move conflicted with its zoning code that had set aside the land for manufacturing uses. However, the City allowed entertainment activities and commercial recreation to operate in industrial zones. The Church then filed suit, alleging the City’s refusal to allow the Church to relocate to the industrial zone violated its rights under RLUIPA.
In 2011, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the Church, finding the City’s actions violated RLUIPA by imposing a substantial burden on the Church’s religious exercise. San Leandro appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in October 2011 the Court denied certiorari.
San Leandro announced the settlement agreement at its September 24 City Council meeting. In a statement released by the City, San Leandro admitted no wrongdoing and made no changes to its zoning code. The City also said it had sufficient funds in its self-insurance fund and reserve account to cover the settlement amount, meaning taxpayers fortunately will not be on the hook to pay any of the $2.3 million.
This case is representative of how courts nationwide are vigorously enforcing RLUIPA, and how municipalities are agreeing to large settlements rather than drag out litigation and risk an even larger monetary loss at trial. If you are a religious entity and feel that you have been discriminated against in the areas of land use or zoning, the experienced attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC are available to answer any questions you may have.
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.