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Reflections on the Pastors’ Forum and 2019 Christian Legal Society National Conference

Written by Noel Sterett on November 5, 2019 Category: Land Use and Zoning, RLUIPA

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at the Pastors’ Forum as part of the 2019 Christian Legal Society Conference in Chicago, IL. Dozens of pastors from around the Chicago area came to hear about how they can better prepare their congregations to address the most pressing legal issues of the day. Every year, Church Law & Tax, a publication which provides churches with great information on legal, tax and risk management matters, identifies the top five reasons why churches ended up in court during the preceding year. For the last decade, property disputes and zoning matters have consistently been at or near the top of the list. Since we at Dalton & Tomich are actively litigating numerous property and zoning cases on behalf of churches in courts across the country, the top five list comes as no surprise to us. Thankfully, I was privileged to have Matt Branaugh, the Editor of Church Law & Tax, in attendance for my presentation and there to confirm the top five list for any pastors who might not realize the importance of knowing their rights in these two areas. Far too many churches lose valuable properties and opportunities each year because they (and even their local attorneys) fail to understand their rights.

I was also thankful for the opportunity to listen to a distinguished panel of religious liberty attorneys discuss the major religious liberty cases that are currently before the United States Supreme Court. Attorney Luke Goodrich, VP and Senior Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, highlighted six key cases that will greatly shape the religious liberty landscape in America. He also spoke about his recently published book Free to Believe which provides a helpful primer on why religious liberty matters and how we can best fight to secure it for future generations. Though I’m only half way through the book, I can already highly recommend it.

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