Settlement: Illinois church finally able to worship on own property
CARLINVILLE, Ill. — The city of Carlinville has agreed to a settlement proposed by an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney on behalf of the Carlinville Southern Baptist Church. The settlement means that the church can now use a former Wal-Mart building it purchased and renovated after the city and its mayor approved the church’s use of the building and then backed out of the agreement.
“Churches should not be discriminated against in city zoning decisions,” said ADF-allied attorney Daniel P. Dalton. “We are pleased that the city has finally realized that it has no legal recourse to keep Carlinville Southern Baptist Church from using the property it has legitimately acquired for religious purposes.”
Since entering into a contract to acquire the building from Wal-Mart in August 2005, the Carlinville church has met resistance from city officials over its use of the building. Dalton filed the lawsuit Carlinville Southern Baptist Church v. City of Carlinville on the church’s behalf in March, alleging that the city’s attempt to block the church’s purchase, renovation, and use of the structure violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. RLUIPA is a federal law protecting churches from discrimination in land use disputes with local governments.
At least three times this summer, the city proposed terms of agreement to the church, only to add more restrictive terms in an apparent attempt to drive the church and its pastor into insolvency and out of town. After the church publicly rebuked the mayor for the impasse, the city proposed a better settlement, and the church accepted.
“It’s simply wrong for a city to keep a church from using property because officials would rather see it used to generate commercial tax revenue. And forcing a church to endure bureaucratic nightmares over the matter is even worse,” said ADF Senior Counsel Joe Infranco. “We’re pleased that this settlement clears the way for the church to begin preparing the property for worship services.”
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.