Zoning Suit by Religious Order Could Have Nationwide Effects. “An order of Catholic nuns has filed a federal lawsuit against McHenry County for rejecting their proposal to expand facilities at their Northern Illinois Convent, and the case could have farther-reaching repercussions, as the country continues to grapple with questions over the rights of religious adherents and their organizations. The Fraternite Notre Dame submitted a petition for an amendment to a preexisting permit in September 2014. The proposal included plans for a brewery, winery, gift shop, nursing home, and other charitable venues to be built in the primarily rural area in Chicago's far northwest suburbs. Their proposal in 2014 only required an amendment to the permit, but residents in the surrounding areas objected and the McHenry County Board shut it down. . . . Attorneys for the order claimed the nuns are facing religious discrimination.
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“‘The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) has and continues to have a large impact on the planning world and municipal land use law,’ said attorney and RLUIPA blogger Karla Chaffee. ‘The RLUIPA provides extra-constitutional protections to religious land use applicants and institutionalized persons and grants prevailing plaintiffs the right to recover their attorneys’ fees’” (“Illinois nuns’ lawsuit vs. McHenry County over zoning denial could have local, national implications,” CookCountyRecord.com).
Learn the 11 things to know when it comes to churches and zoning.
Virginia, Mayor-Pastor Embroiled in Church-State Separation Scrutiny. “[Emmanuel] Adediran, the head of public works for the City of Richmond, Virginia, spent what now looks like a considerable amount of city time on a side job: helping oversee the construction of a new building for First Baptist Church of South Richmond. The pastor of that church is Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones. . . . More serious questions concern Jones. Newly discovered emails show that Adediran kept him in the loop on progress at the church, and in one reply Jones expressed concern that things were not moving fast enough. This contradicts the impression the mayor gave earlier: that he knew little if anything about Adediran’s activity on his church’s behalf, that he has no control over it, and that he has ‘worked hard’ to keep city and church matters separate. In fact, at one point the mayor hotly suggested that reporters asking about the matter were violating an important constitutional principle by breaching the wall separating church and state. . . . The emails have raised some other important questions, too. For instance, two contractors on the church project listed the city as the billing recipient on estimates for kitchen equipment. Has any city money been used—or promised—for Jones’ new church? Now that would be a real violation of church-state separation.” “Editorial: Just how serious is Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones’ church scandal?” Richmond.com).
Look for the new downloadable resource about political involvement coming to the ChurchLawAndTaxStore.com in spring 2016!
In Contrast with Leadership, Most Anglicans Now Favor Same-Sex Marriage. “Attitudes to same-sex marriage within the pews of the Church of England are sharply at odds with the stance of its leadership, as for the first time more Anglicans are in favour of gay and lesbian couples marrying than oppose it, according to a poll. Support for same-sex marriage among church members has significantly increased over the past three years despite the leadership’s insistence that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and its refusal to conduct church weddings for gay couples or allow gay priests to marry. The church’s official position was explicitly restated earlier this month at a meeting of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury that exposed deep divisions within the global and national church on the issue. Some believe the gulf between conservatives and liberals within the church is unbridgeable. A poll conducted in the aftermath of the Canterbury meeting found 45 percent of people who define themselves as Church of England approve of same-sex marriage, compared with 37 percent who believe it is wrong. A similar survey three years ago found almost the reverse: 38 percent of Anglicans in favour and 47 percent opposed” (“Church of England members back same-sex marriage,” The Guardian).
Attorney Richard Hammar provides in-depth analysis of the Supreme Court’s landmark same-sex marriage ruling and what it means for churches in this exclusive article.
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