Synagogue RLUIPA Construction | Dalton and Tomich


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You have a land us­e issue. You purchased land with the intention of using it for a synagogue or Chabad and the local government has denied you the ability to use the land for religious assembly due to zoning issues. What can you do?

In some communities, Jewish synagogue projects face little to no opposition. In others, synagogue builders can come up against zoning regulations and land use laws that prevent the expansion and construction of synagogues.

If you find yourself in the latter group, you need the experience of Dalton & Tomich, PLC. Our religious land use attorneys can help you with a wide range of building and zoning issues that are delaying your project.


Securing zoning approval and construction permits is often a straightforward process, but if there is a dispute or issue it can put a new synagogue build on hold. We’re here to help get your project back on track.

The team at Dalton & Tomich, PLC can serve as guides through the often complicated process of getting approval from an administrative body that has previously blocked requests. We also have experience with federal court litigation for securing zoning approval. The professionals at Dalton & Tomich, PLC have successfully confirmed the rights of synagogues, chabads and other houses of worship in complex religious land use and zoning cases throughout the United States.

We primarily base our cases on a set of religious land use acts:

  • The First Amendment Free Exercise Clause
  • The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
  • The Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)

Our past cases have resulted in the acquisition of new property, new synagogue construction and the expansion of existing buildings. But winning these cases is a complex process that requires intimate knowledge of religious protection acts and their applications.

At this time we are accepting new clients and can begin working with your organization to secure the resources that are needed for your synagogue as quickly as possible.


The construction of synagogues is hindered by many of the same challenges other houses of worship face. Our team is experienced in handling highly specialized cases involving synagogue construction and religious protection acts.

Legal services available to synagogue builders include:

  • Gaining approval or denial with local planning commission and administrative bodies as necessary
  • Providing professional guidance through the local administrative process
  • Procuring the testimony of expert witnesses, including those in the planning, zoning and traffic professions
  • Gathering all available evidence to support the case
  • Determining the best way to prepare and finalize pleadings based on your goals
  • Filing a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, if possible
  • Moving forward to trial or pursuing a settlement based on your needs and the best interests of your synagogue
  • Keeping the lines of communication open throughout the process


If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of not being able to use the building or property you just purchased, you should know two things: 1) You aren’t alone. 2) You have options.

This FREE guide will help you understand your rights, navigate your options (litigation might not even be required!) and understand the process for what happens next.

Call us today at (313) 859-6000!

Download Your FREE Guide for Synagogues


Synagogue leaders and their members benefit greatly from the experience of our religious land use and zoning attorneys. Our team is led by Daniel P. Dalton and Noel W. Sterett, nationally recognized for their work in this area of the law.

We have won religious land use cases all across the country.

Real-World Results for Jewish Building Projects

One of our recent religious land use cases that was featured in The Atlantic magazine gained national attention. We were able to help the congregation’s leadership overcome discrimination on the part of a local New Jersey community. The case resulted in the construction of a 717-seat sanctuary that now supports the organization’s mission and members.

View More Case Studies


The experienced religious land use and zoning attorneys of Dalton & Tomich, PLC will defend your synagogue’s right to grow and to worship freely.


Frequently Asked Questions: Synagogue Requirements and Land Use

When it comes to land use and zoning law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) is an invaluable tool for synagogues and other religious institutions. This religious protection act prevents local governments from discriminating against religious uses in the context of zoning. If secular uses are permitted in a zone, religious uses must also be permitted. This is a federal law.

There are many other claims that can be raised to support local synagogue construction in a land use dispute. This includes claims under the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause, the Free Speech or Assembly Clauses and the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection clause.

The facts of your case may bring other federal statutes into play as well. These additional laws could include the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disability Act, as well as state constitutional and statutory provisions. We evaluate each claim independently to determine what is the best strategy in moving forward so that you have the best chance of succeeding at trial.

For more on the question of what happens when RLUIPA doesn’t apply, watch our “what if RLUIPA doesn’t apply” video.

Synagogues and other religious entities have the same ability to be treated fairly and equally in all zoning and land use matters as secular assembly uses. Local governments who discriminate against these institutions are often in violation of RLUIPA and the United States Constitution.

Our video on what to do in the case of a zoning denial is the resource you need. The first step is to see if there are any potential internal appeals in the zoning code. If there are no internal appeals available, and if the facts of your case or the language of the zoning ordinance give you the ability to challenge the denial, you can file suit in state or federal court asserting a just cause of action under RLUIPA.

We are happy to help in these matters. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Conditional use permits provide that a religious use is permitted in the zoning district, but it’s not considered a right. In order to get the conditional use permit, the applicant has to meet certain requirements specified by a local governing agency.

Estimating the time it will take a case to be settled or decided in court is difficult to do because there are a number of factors involved. Generally speaking, it takes 18 months from filing a suit to the trial. During that year and a half, there will be highs and lows. It’s important to prepare for the emotional roller coaster so it’s easier to manage.

Another consideration is that a lot of factors in the case are outside of your control. There’s no way to pick the judge or prevent changes in the laws that impact your case. Therefore, accurately estimating the timeframe and exact course that’s taken is very difficult.

Litigation can be a very expensive endeavor in terms of legal fees and related costs. But it can also be more costly to forfeit your ability to use your land as you intended.

Providing an exact cost for litigation at the beginning of the process is nearly impossible. The cost partly depends on how the other party responds, which we have no control over. We can’t tell you how much a case may cost exactly, but based on our extensive experience we can tell you the estimated cost of the case going forward.

We understand that choosing an attorney is an important decision that can feel overwhelming at times. Our job is to alleviate the burden by guiding you through the litigation process and providing legal services that deliver value.

For more information, view our video on the time and expenses for a typical religious land use case.