Dalton & Tomich PLC founding attorney Dan Dalton was recently quoted in a Washington Post article about a religious land use dispute in Pennsylvania.
The dispute involves a piece of property in Lancaster County that is owned by a group of Catholic nuns who are dedicated to environmental protection and activism. An energy company wants to run a natural gas pipeline directly through the Adorers’ property. In a form of protest and because they consider the land to be holy ground, the nuns built an outdoor chapel in the path of the planned pipeline.
The energy company tried repeatedly to negotiate with the nuns for use of the land but was ultimately unsuccessful. Now, the energy company seeks to seize the nuns’ land through eminent domain. In April, the energy company filed a notice of condemnation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Dan Dalton was asked to comment on whether RLUIPA protects religious entities threatened with eminent domain actions.
“There is something to this ‘holy land’ thing,” said Dan Dalton, a Michigan land-use and zoning attorney and the author of a book on the litigation of religious land-use cases. “There haven’t been a lot of appellate cases…. It really is a relatively new issue.”
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs the area in Pennsylvania at issue in this matter, has yet to rule on this issue. Given the competing federal issues at play—religious institutions’ rights under RLUIPA and other entities’ eminent domain rights under federal law—it is probable this issue will make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court sooner rather than later.
The full Washington Post article with Dan’s comments can be found here.