Saturday, April 30, 2011

Challenge To Zoning Denial By Interfaith Retreat Center Can Move Ahead

In a letter ruling in Oracle Institute v. Board of Supervisors of Grayson County, (VA Cir. Ct., April 26, 2011), a Virginia state trial judge rejected a number of defenses to a suit brought by an interfaith spiritual retreat center challenging the denial of a special use permit for property which it wished to develop.  The complaint (full text) claims that the denial stemmed from opposition by various clergy and their parishioners who opposed the philosophy of the Oracle Institute and its leader Laura George as being counter to the Christian beliefs of the community. The court held that plaintiffs had standing to assert a RLUIPA claim and various constitutional claims even though they do not own the property in question. It held that a private right of action lies to enforce the speech and religion guarantees set out in the Virginia constitution. It also rejected various immunity claims.  However the court did hold that one of the defendants, the county Board of Supervisors, was not a proper party under RLUIPA. The Rutherford Institute issued a press release announcing the court's ruling.

UPDATE: On Dec. 14, 2011, the Grayson County Board of Supervisors granted a permit for development of the retreat center. (AP).