On September 14, 2018, Dalton & Tomich attorneys Noel Sterett and Larry Opalewski filed a federal religious land use suit on behalf of Hope Lutheran Church against the City of St. Ignace, MI. The church, which had been meeting at its property at 132 S. State, was told by City officials that its property was not zoned for a church. After the church applied for, and was denied, a variance from the City’s zoning prohibition, the church filed suit in September in order to secure its right to be treated on equal terms with the non-religious assembly uses permitted as of right at the property. The City’s Zoning Code freely permits non-religious assembly uses, such as assembly halls, townhalls, and theaters at the property, but unlawfully prohibits religious assemblies. The Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act, however, requires municipalities to treat religious assemblies and nonreligious assemblies equally. The religious content of an assembly use should not determine whether the use is permitted or prohibited.
Within just six weeks of filing suit and less than a month after the Church filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction, the City agreed to stipulate to an order that allows the Church to use its property for religious assembly and church services during the pendency of litigation in order to address the irreparable harm to the the Church’s religious exercise. The Court entered the order this morning on October 26, 2018 and has provided the parties time to explore whether the rest of the lawsuit can be resolved amicably.
This excellent and swift result is another example of Dalton & Tomich’s commitment to securing the religious land use rights of its clients all across the country.