It is not unusual for our organization to receive a call or email from a church or ministry requesting our assistance.
Often these cases are resolved out of court – without a lawsuit being filed. That’s exactly what happened with two different cases recently.
In Huntsville, Alabama, The Way of God in Truth Ministries was denied use of a city/public facility for its weekly Christian youth outreach program because it is a religious organization.
The City permits all other non-religious groups, organizations, and the like to use its facilities. The ministry member who contacted us shared a letter from our organization with the City Attorney that clearly spelled out the constitutional protections in place concerning this issue – equal access and equal protection for the ministry.
Our attorneys then followed up with an email to the City Attorney noting that the City must permit the ministry to use its public facilities in the same manner it is offered to other community groups and citizens.
Here’s the good news: The City Attorney provided assurances in writing that The Way of God in Truth Ministries would be permitted to use one of its public meeting places.
The issue was quickly resolved and the ministry got the green light to move forward with its plans. As the ministry official put it in an email to our attorneys: “Thank you! Thank you! We so appreciate your time!”
I’m pleased to report on another victory – this one out of Louisiana.
The issue there involved the MORe Community Church of Leesville where the City refused to grant a zoning permit to the church to operate its administrative offices in an office suite in the City’s commercial/downtown district. The City denied the permit solely on the basis that a religious organization would be using the office space, rather than a corporation or non-religious organization.
This action violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). We immediately sent the City a demand letter on behalf of the church alleging violations of RLUIPA and the Equal Protection Clause.
Our demand letter and involvement in the case produced the results we were looking for.
The Leesville City Attorney City contacted the ACLJ and explained that the City has granted MORe the certificate of occupancy it is entitled to for the operation of its administrative offices in the downtown district.
Church officials expressed to us their gratitude for resolving this in a timely manner so the church could forward in securing its leased space.
That’s just a small part of what we do at the American Center for Law and Justice. A small – but vital role – protecting the constitutional rights of ministries and churches.