Today, Dalton & Tomich client A Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center dismissed its lawsuit against the City of Raleigh, N.C. after the parties reached a settlement agreement. Attorney Noel Sterett filed the federal lawsuit in 2016 after the Raleigh City Council disregarded the recommendations of the City’s Zoning Staff and Planning Commission and voted to deny the pregnancy center the zoning approval it needed to relocate next to an abortion clinic on Jones Franklin Road.
A Hand of Hope is a not-for-profit, pro-life ministry which shares God’s love and free resources with women facing the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. The center sought to relocate next to the abortion clinic in order to provide women with free support and a meaningful choice.
“Pregnant women in Raleigh should be allowed to choose Hand of Hope’s free help and support and should not be limited to an abortion clinic.” said Hand of Hope’s Executive Director Tonya Baker Nelson.
Because A Hand of Hope is a religious institution it is entitled to the substantial protections of the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act—a federal law which was enacted in 2000 to protect religious assemblies and institutions from discrimination in the land use context. After litigating the case for several years and surviving the City’s various attempts to have the case thrown out, A Hand of Hope ultimately settled its case with Raleigh before trial.
Under the settlement, Raleigh agreed to a zoning interpretation which allows A Hand of Hope to offer free ultrasounds and other pregnancy support services at the Jones Franklin Rd. location. Raleigh also agreed to pay A Hand of Hope $25,000 to dismiss the lawsuit.
This case is yet another reminder of how RLUIPA helps level the playing field for a wide variety of religious institutions in the land use and zoning context. If your religious assembly or institution is experiencing difficulty obtaining land use or zoning approvals, please contact the attorneys at Dalton & Tomich.
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