Sunday, August 15, 2010

Church Wins In Its RLUIPA and Constitutional Challenges To Zoning Denial

In a lengthy opinion, a New York federal district court in Fortress Bible Church v. Feiner, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82043 (SDNY, Aug. 11, 2010), held that the Town of Greenburgh, New York violated RLUIPA's "substantial burden" provisions, as well as the free exercise and equal protection provisions of the U.S. and New York constitutions, in denying an application by Fortress Bible Church to build a new facility to house the church and its school, the Fortress Christian Academy. After making 622 findings of fact, the court found "overwhelming evidence of ... intentional delay, hostility and bias toward the Church's application...." The court ordered town officials to approve the Church's site plan, to grant zoning variances and waivers, and to issue a building permit.