Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Catholic Order May Build School, Gift Shop and Barn

In Fraternité Notre Dame, Inc. v. County of McHenry2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40030 (ND IL, March 2, 2020), an Illinois federal magistrate judge, after holding a public hearing, approved a settlement agreement that allows a conservative order of Catholic nuns to construct a barn-like building for wine making, beer brewing, and canning, and to build a boarding school and a gift shop. In entering the settlement agreement, the parties stipulated that the county had violated the "substantial burden" provision of RLUIPA in denying an amended conditional use permit. The court's public hearing elicited comments both in favor of and opposed to the settlement agreement. The court said in part:
The historical religious bigotry Plaintiff has been subjected to provides a painful backdrop to this case. Plaintiff, its members, and the Property have been subjected to repeated acts of religious bigotry. The Property has been vandalized and desecrated in the most vile ways. Plaintiff's members have been threatened with lynching. And they have been placed in peril. For example, Plaintiff's vehicles have been vandalized in ways that affected the operation of the vehicles, including the loosening of lug nuts and the severing of brake fluid lines. Because of these criminal acts, Plaintiff installed fencing and cameras to protect its members and the Property.
Stunningly, a community member then staked out Plaintiff's property for hours upon hours, taking photographs of the fencing and cameras, all to prove his point that Plaintiff and its members were not "inviting." ...
Lots of people were willing to share their opinions regarding how Plaintiff should use its Property. But none of those opinions considered the legal requirements of RLUIPA.
Chicago Tribune reports on the decision.