In May, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (“NIFLA”) will be hosting its annual legal summit. NIFLA has asked Dalton & Tomich attorney Noel Sterett to present on how the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) can help pregnancy care ministries overcome municipal efforts to prohibit or restrict where and how they serve women in their community. Noel has litigated RLUIPA cases on behalf of pregnancy centers in Illinois and North Carolina. He is also currently involved in two other lawsuits against the state of Illinois that challenge a law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion services.
NIFLA garnered national attention last June when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the free speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers in NIFLA v. Becerra. The case involved California’s effort to force pro-life pregnancy centers to notify women of the availability of state subsidized abortion services. Many of these centers operate as not-for-profit ministries and are motivated by sincerely held religious beliefs that are opposed to abortion. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the bedrock First Amendment principle that the government is not to compel a person to promote a message with which they disagree.
The NIFLA case raised national awareness of the work and mission of these pregnancy care centers but also provided an opportunity for some to argue why these centers should be opposed. One area in which pregnancy center centers have faced opposition in the past and will likely see more opposition in the future is the area of land use regulation. As land use regulations and the politicization of zoning increases, local officials who are politically opposed to the viewpoint and work of the pregnancy care centers may use their zoning and land use powers to restrict where and how these centers can operate. RLUIPA and the Constitution, however, provide pregnancy care center ministries significant protections against discriminatory and burdensome land use regulations.
If your religious institution or ministry has faced land use discrimination, please contact the attorneys at Dalton & Tomich who have successfully litigated these cases all across the country.
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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.
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