Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C. is principally engaged in representing religious organizations of all traditions in wide variety of matters. We have a principled commitment to defending the right to practice one's faith without undue governmental interference. These matters of concern include:

• Zoning, Land Use and Eminent Domain
• Tax Exemptions
• Non-Profit Incorporation
• Bylaws and governance disputes
• Employment Issues
• General Non-profit corporate matters

The firm was formed in 2006 to join our talents and long experience in representing religious organizations. We often work in conjunction with an institution's local or general counsel. For information on some of the cases
Mr. Storzer and Mr. Greene have handled see About the Attorneys, Representative Clients , Important Cases, and Press Room sections of this website. To contact us please click here.

White Plains, N.Y. (Mar. 21, 2013): S&G Orthodox Jewish clients win summary judgment on their claim that a "religious observance" provision in their collective bargaining agreement with a public school district does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The court wrote:

 

The Religious Observance Clauses at issue here do not single out a particular religious sect or denomination for special treatment; rather, they are reasonable accommodations of the employees’ religious beliefs. The Supreme Court “has long recognized that the government may (and sometimes must) accommodate religious practices and that it may do so without violating the Establishment Clause.” Corp. of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 334 (1987) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 713 (2005) (same). The Court has held that “there is room for play in the joints between’ the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, allowing the government to accommodate religion beyond free exercise requirements, without offense to the Establishment Clause.” Cutter, 544 U.S. at 713 (quoting Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712, 718 (2004)). “There is ample room under the Establishment Clause for ‘benevolent neutrality which will permit religious exercise to exist without sponsorship and without interference.”

Here, the District’s enforcement of the Religious Observance Clauses does not amount to an illicit advancement of religion through its own activities and influence; rather, the clauses are self-selecting and allow the teachers and nurses to decide whether to use their leave days for the purpose of observing a particular religious holiday. Moreover, the Religious Observance Clauses do not designate specific religious holidays for inclusion, thereby improperly granting an added benefit to members of one faith and creating the impermissible inference that the District favors or prefers particular religions over others.


Berkowitz v. East Ramapo Central School Dist., Civ. No. 11-07002 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2013).



Washington, D.C. (Feb. 3, 2013): The Washington Examiner reports on Bethel World Outreach Ministries' victory in federal Court of Appeals:

 

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a land dispute between the county and megachurch Bethel World Outreach Ministries will go to trial. The church sued the County in 2008, saying that the County was intentionally blocking the church from building a site in Gaithersburg.


Kate Jacobson, "Church's lawsuit against MontCo revived in appeals court," Washington Examiner (Feb. 3, 2013)



Norwalk, Conn. (Feb. 4, 2013): Recent news report on the Al Madany lawsuit:

 

"Federal law protects the right of all religious traditions, mainstream or minority, to a place where congregants can pray, worship together and teach their children," said Roman P. Storzer, the Washington, D.C., attorney retained by Al Madany, in a press statement accompanying the lawsuit. "It is up to the faith-based organization, and not the government, to decide which religious activities are uses that are to be associated with its place of worship."

Storzer, an attorney with Storzer & Greene, PLLC, has represented religious institutions nationwide in religious freedom matters. His legal victories include thwarting the Camden County Improvement Authority's (N.J.) attempt to seize Living Faith Ministries' church and allowing it to continue to exist in an area of economic redevelopment, and a decision by a federal district court supporting The Church of the Hills in a lawsuit against the Township of Bedminster, N.J., in an attempt to expand its church, according to his law firm's website.


R. Koch, "Norwalk hires high-profile attorney to battle proposed mosque," The Hour (Feb. 4, 2013).



Montgomery Cy., Md. (Feb. 1, 2013): The Daily Record reports on Fourth Circuit's Bethel World Outreach Ministries decision:

 

The 3-0 decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revives Bethel World Outreach Ministries’ lawsuit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. . . . “When a religious organization buys property reasonably expecting to build a church, governmental action impeding the building of the church may impose a substantial burden,” Judge Diana G. Motz wrote Thursday for the appellate panel, which sent the case back for trial.

The church’s attorney, Roman P. Storzer, said the decision enables Bethel to press ahead with its nine-year fight to build a facility that will accommodate its growing membership. “You can’t have worship at all unless you have a place of worship,” said Storzer, of Storzer & Greene PLLC in Washington.


S. Lash, "Appeals court revives megachurch's lawsuit against Montgomery County" (Jan. 31, 2013)



Washington, D.C. (January 2013): Latest U.S. Department of Justice Religious Freedom in Focus discusses the religious freedom cases of two S&G clients: Bethel World Outreach Ministries' appeal against Montgomery County, Maryland, and the UDV and Aurora Foundation's lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners of Sante Fe County:

 

On December 4, the United States argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that a federal trial court applied the wrong standard in ruling against a church's claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The United States had earlier filed a brief in the appeal, Bethel World Outreach v. Montgomery County Maryland, which involves a church's efforts to construct an 800-seat church in a rural/residential section of the county, arguing that the trial court should have applied a "totality of the circumstances" test to evaluate the RLUIPA claim.


The Fourth Circuit has since ruled in favor of Bethel World Outreach Ministries and remanded the case for further proceedings.

 

On November 27, 2012, the Board of County Commissioners of Santa Fe County voted to approve an application by O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) to build a temple on a site where it had previously worshipped for 14 years. The County's approval of UDV's application resolves the New Mexico church's claims against the County under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which were included in the lawsuit UDV filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico on February 2, 2012. . . . The Civil Rights Division filed an amicus brief in UDV's lawsuit on May 25, 2012, in opposition to the County's motion to dismiss UDV's complaint. The brief argued that the church had alleged sufficient facts to support a claim under RLUIPA, and that the church's RLUIPA claims should be permitted to move forward.


Religious Freedom in Focus Vol. 55 (Jan. 2013)



Richmond, Va. (Jan. 31, 2013): Federal Court of Appeals rules in favor of Bethel World Outreach Ministries: In a published decision reversing the lower court's grant of summary judgment to Montgomery County, Maryland, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the church's claim that passage of a zoning ordinance prohibiting a place of worship on its property substantially burdens its religious exercise can go to trial. The court ruled:

 

Although the County suggests that Bethel’s burden is not substantial because the organization already owns one facility and rents another, Bethel has presented considerable evidence that its current facilities inadequately serve its needs. Specifically, insufficient space forces Bethel to hold four services every Sunday, and to shorten services, interfering with Communion and the church’s "Altar Call" practice. Bethel’s present facilities are overcrowded, requiring ushers to turn people away from services and limiting Bethel’s ability to offer various programs. Bethel’s pastor testified that the lack of adequate facilities creates a sense of disunity because the congregation is divided into so many separate services.

If Bethel’s proffered evidence is believed, a fact finder could certainly conclude that Bethel’s current facilities do not adequately serve its religious purposes, and that the planned 800-seat church would alleviate Bethel’s burden. . . . Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Bethel, we must conclude that the district court erred in holding as a matter of law that the County did not impose a substantial burden on Bethel’s religious exercise.


The church was supported by the United States Department of Justice and The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Read the decision here.



Rockland County, N.Y. (January 24, 2013): The Advocate reports on Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov decision allowing challenge to Village zoning laws to move forward:

 

According to Storzer, . . . this is an extreme case; "One that brings to mind the civil rights conflicts of the 1960s. We need to stop the Village of Pomona, and municipalities across the country, from using their zoning power as a tool to control unpopular religious groups. RLUIPA supersedes local zoning codes in cases such as this by allowing municipalities to consider plans for the development of religious uses that may otherwise be prohibited outright, like this Yeshiva. By denying the Rabbinical College the right to even apply for the necessary permits, while secular colleges or colleges of other religious traditions would be permitted, and even refusing to meet with Congregation representatives, the village has violated the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment and RLUIPA."


A. Moeller, "Pomona Yeshiva Case Moves Forward in Court," The Advocate(Jan. 24, 2013)



White Plains, N.Y. (Jan 4, 2013): Federal court denies Village of Pomona's motion to dismiss Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov's facial challenges to zoning code. The Congregation, represented by S&G together with Savad Churgin of Nanuet, N.Y. and Stepanovich & Associates of Chesapeake, Va., argued that its claims brought under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and the Fair Housing Act challenging certain land use provisions banning the religious college's proposed use should proceed to trial.

Among other holdings in its 102-page decision, the court wrote that the "Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that the multi-family dormitories that they seek to build are intended to facilitate religious exercise, thus bringing this accessory use within RLUIPA’s protections."

Read the decision here

M. Hamblett, "Parties say ruling clarifies issues under religious land use law," New York Law Journal (Jan. 11, 2013)

A. Matsuda, "Group's rabbinical college lawsuit can proceed, but Pomona claims 'win," The Journal News (Jan. 10, 2013)



Washington, D.C. (Dec. 22, 2012): Fishermen of Men Church applauds victory against the efforts to landmark its church as a "historic" site.

 

Bishop Clarence Groover Sr., pastor and founder of the Fisherman of Men Church and his jubilant congregation are still celebrating a great victory since the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board’s (HPRB) announcement of its decision to deny the request by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A to grant historic status to the former York movie theater building erected in 1919 that has served this present community now as a church for the last more than 35 years.


Press Release, "Washington DC, Church Wins Fight Against Historic Landmark Designation The DC HPRB Voted 5 to 3 in Denying Designation at Hearing on 11/29/12"



Norwalk, Conn. (Dec. 11, 2012): U.S. Department of Justice investigating City of Norwalk, Connecticut's denial of application for place of worship:

 

The U.S. Department of Justice is delving into city Zoning commissioners' rejection of Al-Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk's plan to build a mosque in West Norwalk, according to city officials. . . . "Federal law protects the right of all religious traditions, mainstream or minority, to a place where congregants can pray, worship together and teach their children," said Roman P. Storzer, the attorney representing Al-Madany Islamic Center.


R. Koch, "Norwalk officials acknowledge Department of Justice is reviewing mosque denial," The Hour (Dec. 11, 2012)

 

Roman P. Storzer, of New York-based Storzer & Greene, the attorney for Al-Madany, said Monday he cannot discuss specifics of any settlement discussions, but noted, "[T]he center was flexible in the earlier proceedings with the Zoning Commission and they still look forward to be able to achieve an amicable result with the city here. We aren't closing off any avenues of resolution."

Storzer said the complaint describes the center's need for a place of worship and the lack of an existing mosque in Norwalk. It alleges the commission's action was based on "misapplication of state and local laws," "ad hoc factors specifically and specially designed to prevent the construction of a mosque within Norwalk," and "unequal treatment as compared to similarly situated places of worship in the same area and zoning district."


N. Rivard, "Mosque neighbors feel ignored by city," Stamford Advocate (Dec. 14, 2012)



Recent media on Fourth Circuit appellate argument in King v. Chesterfield County free speech challenge:

 

Businessweek (Dec. 5, 2012)

NBC 12 (Dec. 4, 2012)

CBS 6 (Dec. 4, 2012)




Sante Fe, N.M. (Nov. 27, 2012): S&G client Aurora Foundation, together with the O Centro Espirita Beneficente Unia Do Vegetal, settle RLUIPA lawsuit with the Board of County Commissioners of Sante Fe County:

 

After denying UDV a building permit and faced with a Federal lawsuit alleging multiple violations of congressional and constitutional mandates related to religious liberty, the Board of Commissioners of Santa Fe County, last month, agreed to provide a construction permit to the UDV to build its small church. The church had been the target of a strident campaign funded by a small group of vocal opponents from the local area, who had pressured the political bodies to deny the needed permits because of evident misunderstandings and fear of UDV’s religious practice.

As a condition of settlement, in addition to granting all needed permits for the church to begin construction, the County also agreed, at its own expense, to install public utility services not currently available in the area. The Board of County Commissioners also agreed not to dispute the UDV's prevailing party status in the federal lawsuit and UDV, as a consequence, will recover its substantial attorney's fees and legal costs as provided for under Federal law.


UDV, "Facing strong local opposition, small church granted permit to build its temple under federal law," Religion News Service (Dec. 10, 2012)

A copy of the settlement agreement is available at B. Krasnow, "County agrees to UDV temple construction in Arroyo Hondo," The New Mexican (Nov. 13, 2012)

B. Krasnow, "Official: UDV settlemetn to cost taxpayers $400K," The New Mexican (Nov. 14, 2012)



Washington D.C. (Nov. 29, 2012): S&G client Fisherman of Men Church victorious in historic landmarking dispute. Fisherman of Men Church today persuaded the District
of Columbia Historic Preservation Review Board to deny the application of Advisory Neighborhood Commission - 1A to designate its church building, located at 3641 Georgia Avenue Northwest in Washington, D.C., as a historic landmark. Such designation of the church, which has been occupied and maintained by Fisherman of Men for twenty-five years, would have prevented it from making any changes to the exterior of the building, frustrating its plans to develop the property in a manner that would allow it to fully serve its congregation and the community.

The HPRB voted 5-3 to deny the application, contrary to the recommendations of the Board staff. Bishop Clarence Groover Sr., pastor of Fisherman of Men, said, “The decision is really a thrill. Now we can get the permits to build the canopy, signage and give the church a presence in the community.”

S&G submitted an opinion letter informing the HPRB that:

 

Such potential designation implicates two federal civil rights laws, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C §§ 2000cc et seq., and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq., each of which protects the right to free exercise of religion. As discussed in further detail below, it is this Firm’s opinion that the designation of Fisherman of Men Church’s building as a historic landmark would violate the Church’s civil rights under RLUIPA and RFRA.

"Religious architecture, through its shapes, symbols, decorations, ornamentations, and monumentality, represents a strong intention to communicate a particularized message about a group's religious beliefs. 'The history of church building demonstrates that the urge to express faith through architecture is basic."


H. Harris, "Historic designation for former York Theater building in D.C. denied," Washington Post (Nov. 29, 2012)



Norwalk, Conn. (Nov. 30, 2012): The Hour writes on the Al-Madany lawsuit:

 

The city and Al-Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk appear headed toward resolution of the latter's lawsuit against the city. Al-Madany Islamic Center sued the city after the commission on June 6 rejected the center's plan to build a mosque/multi-purpose center at 127 Fillow St. That decision might now be reversed, or at least altered. On a 6-1 vote Thursday night, Norwalk Zoning commissioners approved the following motion: "Subject to an agreement on the terms and conditions of the final settlement agreement, we consent to a resolution to allow for zoning approval for the mosque and accessory use building."

"Federal law protects the right of all religious traditions, mainstream or minority, to a place where congregants can pray, worship together and teach their children," said Roman P. Storzer, the attorney representing Al-Madany Islamic Center, at the time the lawsuit was filed.


R. Koch, "City moves to settle mosque lawsuit,The Hour (Nov. 29, 2012)



Bethel World Outreach Ministries appeal to be heard on December 4; United States Department of Justice to argue in support of Church's RLUIPA claim (Oct. 16, 2012).The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the United States' motion to participate in oral argument in Bethel World Outreach Ministries v. Montgomery County, Md., No. 11-2176. The Department of Justice previously filed a brief amicus curiae arguing that the lower court's decision was "flawed" for multiple reasons.



WilmerHale joins S&G in the representation of Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk (Sept. 22, 2012). Al Madany sued the City of Norwalk, Connecticut and the City's Zoning Commission in June 2012, challenging the City's zoning laws and denial of its application to build a mosque. More information available here.



S&G client Dayalbagh Radhasoami Satsang Association of North America files RLUIPA lawsuit against Old Bridge, N.J. (July 24, 2012): The Association, part of the Radhasoami faith that was founded in 1861 in Agra, India, filed suit against the Township of Old Bridge and its Zoning Board of Adjustment challenging a recent zoning ordinance defining permissible religious dormitories and parsonages and the Board's enforcement of zoning laws against it in connection with the Association's plans to build a Satsang Center for worshipers. The complaint filed in federal district court alleges that "the Targeted Ordinance was enacted specifically to prevent the Plaintiff's religious use of the Subject Property."



Bridgeport, Conn. (June 29, 2012): S&G client Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk files suit against the City of Norwalk, Connecticut and its Zoning Commission, challenging its denial of the Center's special use permit:

 

The complaint describes the center's need for a place of worship and the lack of an existing mosque in Norwalk, according to a statement. It alleges that the Zoning Commission's action was based on "misapplication of state and local laws," "ad hoc factors specifically and specially designed to prevent the construction of a mosque within Norwalk" and "unequal treatment as compared to similarly situated places of worship in the same area and zoning district."
The complaint states that a place of worship is an allowed use with a special permit in the residential zoning district where the property is located and alleges that the center complied with all promulgated standards for such a use.

"Federal law protects the right of all religious traditions, mainstream or minority, to a place where congregants can pray, worship together and teach their children," said Roman P. Storzer, attorney for the center, in the statement. "It is up to the faith-based organization, and not the government, to decide which religious activities are uses that are to be associated with its place of worship."


N. Chapman, "Muslims Sue Norwalk Over Rejection of Mosque," Norwalk Daily Voice (June 29, 2012)

R. Koch, "Al Madany Center of Norwalk files lawsuit appealing Zoning Commission ruling," The Hour (June 29, 2011)



United States Department of Justice's latest "Religious Freedom in Focus" discusses its brief amicus curiae filed in O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal v. County of Santa Fe:

 

The United States' friend-of-the-court brief states that all three RLUIPA claims should be permitted to move forward. The brief first argues that UDV has alleged a substantial burden on its exercise of its religion. Surveying the case law, the brief concludes that a zoning action imposes a substantial burden if, looking at all of the surrounding circumstances, it "significantly inhibits, meaningfully curtails, or denies reasonable opportunities for activities that are important to a congregation's religion." In light of the facts regarding the lack of adequate worship space, facts supporting the importance of this particular site to the UDV congregation, and the likely difficulties they would encounter with the County with any alternative property, the United States argues that the substantial burden test has been met.


The brief is available here



Santa Fe, N.M. (May 25, 2012): United States Department of Justice files its Statement of Interest opposing the Sante Fe Board of County Commissioner's motion to dismiss the RLUIPA lawsuit brought by O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal:

 

For all of these reasons, including the physical inadequacy of the current facilities, the importance of this particular location to the church, and Defendant's efforts to block Plaintiffs' locating at this property and the likelihood it would do so at any other property in Santa Fe County, Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that the Defendant has substantially limited, interfered with, or denied reasonable opportunities for them to engage in their religious worship.


United States of America's Statement of Interest in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, filed in O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal v. Board of County Commissioners of Santa Fe County, Civ. no. 12-00105 (May 25, 2012).



Washington, D.C. (May 21, 2012): Third Church historic preservation controversy discussed on Slate: M. Yglesias, "Historic Preservation Rules Are Economic Policy," Slate (May 21, 2012)



Washington, D.C. (May 9, 2012): D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board hearing on the Third Church of Christ, Scientist's redevelopment plans to be held on May 24:

 

The saga over the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, though involving a much younger building, has dragged on even longer. Members of that congregation have been trying for two decades to demolish their “Brutalist” concrete building at 16th and I streets, erected in the late 1960s, because they say it is cold, unwelcoming and nearly impossible to maintain.

But those plans got caught up in a historic landmark nomination, which blocked demolition, and then an appeal to a higher zoning official known the mayor’s agent, then a long court battle. The situation finally ended with a complicated legal settlement that will allow the church and Christian Science Monitor building on the corner site to be removed in favor of a large office building incorporating space for a glassy new Christian Science church.


S&G represented the Third Church in its lawsuit against the HPRB.

E. Wiener, "City board to review projects at two Christian Science sites,"The Dupont Current (May 9, 2012).



Richmond, Va. (Apr. 24, 2012): The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a brief amicus curiae in Bethel World Outreach Ministries v. Montgomery County, arguing that "this case is a textbook example of the kind of government mistreatment of minority religious groups that RLUIPA was enacted to prevent."

 

Montgomery County makes it exceedingly difficult to find land to build a church, and then uses its regulations and law-making authority in arbitrary ways against disfavored categories of churches. These actions violate RLUIPA Section 2(b)(2) by discriminating on the basis of religion.


Amicus Brief at 18. The Becket Fund is a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute dedicated to protecting the free expression of all faiths.

Read their brief here



Washington, D.C. (Apr. 12, 2012): The United States Department of Justice filed a brief amicus curiae in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, supporting Storzer & Greene client Bethel World Outreach Ministries in its appeal against Montgomery County, Maryland. The appeal concerns Bethel's challenge to the enactment of a targeted ordinance (Zoning Text Amendment 07-07) prohibiting it from building a place of worship. The brief argues that "[t]he district court erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that ZTA 07-07 did not constitute a substantial burden on Bethel’s religious exercise." The Department of Justice wrote:

 

Bethel presented sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue of whether identifying a suitable, available piece of property for purchase and obtaining the necessary permits and approval to construct a church on a new site would result in considerable “delay, uncertainty, and expense,” despite the fact that the burden might not be “insuperable.” Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Inc. v. City of New Berlin, 396 F.3d 895, 901 (7th Cir. 2005). And Bethel certainly presented sufficient evidence to suggest that ZTA 07-07’s prohibition of PIFs on land similar to Bethel’s placed a “significantly great restriction or onus” on Bethel’s religious exercise. Guru Nanak Sikh Soc’y of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 456 F.3d 978, 988 (9th Cir. 2006). Bethel presented evidence that its current facilities were insufficient for its religious needs, and that its lack of suitable facilities substantially inhibited its religious practices. For example, Bethel presented evidence that: some church members must be physically blocked from entering the church for worship services due to overcrowding; worshippers who used to be able to sit in the hallway to hear services are now precluded from doing so because of fire safety concerns; the church must hold multiple services, and therefore the entire congregation cannot meet as a single body; church members cannot receive communion during church services and instead must receive communion afterwards; the church cannot adequately engage in its “Altar Call” practice, which allows worshippers to dedicate or recommit their lives to Christ; children are turned away from the Children’s Ministry, which means that neither they, nor their parents, may attend services; there is no space for the church’s mission programs, counseling, health education, or services for single mothers and seniors; and the church has lost members because of the issues with its facilities.


Amicus Brief at 17-18 (footnote, citations omitted). The brief can be found here



Washington, D.C. (Apr. 2012): Volume 51 of the Department of Justice's "Religious Freedom in Focus" highlights its appeal brief filed in the case of Storzer & Greene client Bethel World Outreach Ministries in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals:

 

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed on April 12, the Civil Rights Division argued that a church in Montgomery County, Maryland, that had been prevented by the county from building an 800-seat church on a 119-acre site, had set forth facts that could show that the county imposed a "substantial burden" on the church's religious exercise in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The brief in the case, Bethel World Outreach Ministries v. Montgomery County, was filed with the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and contends that a federal trial court in Maryland erred in granting summary judgment to the county.

Bethel World Outreach Ministries currently serves a congregation of 2,000 by holding multiple services at two locations in Montgomery County. In 2004, the church purchased a 119-acre parcel of land in the county in a zone that at the time permitted churches. The church began the process of planning construction of a large church. Subsequent zoning changes had the effect of blocking the development. . . .

The United States' brief observes that Bethel Outreach Ministries presented numerous facts to show that its religious exercise was substantially inhibited and limited. For example, it presented facts that its current services were so over-capacity that ushers had to physically bar congregants from entering, that religious elements of services including alter calls and communion had to be limited, that children were turned away from Sunday school, that various charitable programs of the church had to be eliminated because of inadequate space, and that the church would face considerable "delay, uncertainty, and expense" in seeking alternative properties. In light of these and other similar factors, the United States' brief argues, the church presented sufficient evidence of a substantial burden on it religious exercise to allow the case to go trial.


Religious Freedom in Focus United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (Vol. 51, April 2012)



Indianapolis, Ind. (Feb. 1, 2012): On February 1, 2012, after the St. John United Church of Christ (represented by Storzer & Greene) filed suit against
the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, the Metropolitan Development Commission of Marion County, and the City of Indianapolis for designating its church as a historic landmark, the MDC rescinded the historic designation of the Church's property. The resolution reads as follows:

 

RESOLUTION NO. 2012-IHPC-001 (For Public Hearing) Amends the Comprehensive Plan of Marion County, Indiana, by rescinding the adoption of St. John United Church of Christ Historic Area Preservation Plan 38 (SJC) – St. John United Church of Christ Historic Area, and by removing the St. John United Church of Christ Historic Area Preservation Plan as a segment of the Comprehensive Plan


"This is an important day for religious freedom," said Church attorney Roman Storzer. "A city should not, and cannot, place the importance of a building over the course of a church's future worship and other ministries."

The Metropolitan Development Commission's hearing on the matter can be viewed here (the discussion on the Church's matter begins at 20:08 on the recording).

The notice of the Metropolitan Development Commission's February 1, 2012 meeting, which includes the Resolution, can be found here.

Background on the Church's lawsuit can be found here.



Indianapolis, Ind. (June 21, 2011): Indianapolis Business Journal reports on S&G client St. John United Church of Christ’s lawsuit challenging the historic landmark designation of its church building:

 

A provisional settlement in a federal lawsuit filed last September against the city by St. John United Church of Christ gives parties in the case six months to find a buyer for the nearly 100-year-old church at the northeast corner of Washington Street and German Church Road. . . . The church planned to use the proceeds of the sale to build a $3 million church at Prospect Street and Carroll Road that would have the amenities necessary to boost membership and lift the church out of financial distress. The shrinking congregation said it lacked the means to pay for $1.3 million in utility bills, maintenance and capital projects needed at the old church.

“There is a presumptive settlement under which the church could sell its property and build elsewhere and the preservationists could save the building,” said Roman P. Storzer, an attorney with Storzer & Greene, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that represents the church. The firm specializes in religious land-use cases. “The church is working in good faith to find a solution that works for everybody.” Storzer said either party could revive the case, filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, within a year if the dispute isn’t resolved. . . .

The clock started ticking on the settlement in April. If after six months there is no resolution, the city agreed in the settlement to begin the process of lifting the historic designation.


Tom Harton, "Tentative settlement reached in lawsuit over historic church,” Indianapolis Business Journal (June 21, 2011)



Washington, D.C. (Apr. 24, 2011): Renowned architect to design S&G client Third Church of Christ, Scientist’s new church building:

 

Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York has been named by developers ICG Properties and the JBG Cos. to design a 160,000-square-foot office building and a new place of worship for the Third Church of Christ, Scientist to replace the current building, an example of the Brutalist architecture movement of the 1960s. . . . With such a high-profile choice, the developers are hoping to move the conversation away from what might be lost when the existing church is torn down and toward what might be gained when the building is replaced.

J. O’Connell, “Robert A.M. Stern to design 16th Street church project."Washington Post (April 24, 2011).



Baltimore, Md. (Feb. 14, 2011): Media coverage of the Riverdale Baptist Church trial:

 

The case was heard by a 10-person jury from Nov. through Nov. 18, 2010. The parties agreed to settle the case on Nov. 18 for $3,250,000. Defendants admitted to substantially burdening the plaintiffs’ religious exercise through the particular application of its laws and policies to plaintiff without a compelling governmental interest and without using the least restrictive means of furthering any such interest, and to unconstitutionally targeting the church by passing legislation aimed only at the church. As part of the settlement, defendants also agreed to allow the church to build a school twice the size of the one originally requested on the property.

“Maryland locality attempts to block Christian school,” Virginia Lawyers Weekly (Feb. 14, 2011)



Madison, Wisc. (Mar. 29, 2011): More media coverage of Eagle Cove Bible Camp’s lawsuit:

 

A federal judge has rejected the town of Woodboro's motion to dismiss a lawsuit involving Oneida County, the town of Woodboro and three brothers who want to build a Bible Camp on Squash Lake. In a 20-page decision filed March 24, U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled the case will go forward in federal court. Last April, the town filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds the appropriate venue for the lawsuit is the circuit court, the judicial body that ordinarily reviews decisions of county boards of adjustment, not the federal court. Conley soundly rejected the argument.


H. Schaefer, " Motion to dismiss Bible Camp lawsuit denied,” Northwoods River News (Mar. 26, 2011)

H. Schaefer, “Experts weigh in on Bible camp case,” Northwoods River News (Mar. 29, 2011)



Madison, Wisc. (Mar. 24, 2011): U.S. District Court rules against Town in Bible Camp case

 

A federal judge in a March 24, 2011 ruling has denied the Town of Woodboro's motion to dismiss the case . . . . The plaintiffs – brothers Arthur, Randall and Wesley Jaros, who are principals of Eagle Cove Camp & Conference Center, Inc. and long-time county residents and property owners – are suing the Town of Woodboro and Oneida County over denials of a permit to build a Bible camp on 34 acres of land on the western end of Squash Lake.


J. Costanza, “U.S. judge denies Oneida County town's motion to dismiss Bible camp lawsuit,” News of the North, (Mar. 25, 2011)



Christianity Today (Feb. 28, 2011): Reporting on the Burbank, Illinois City Council action to ban churches from building in commercial areas: “In the case of Burbank, Mayor Harry Klein told the Chicago Tribune, ‘It's obvious—every city likes to see their tax base grow, that's a given.”

 

Many municipalities “clearly do not understand what is protected under RLUIPA,” said Roman P. Storzer, a leading RLUIPA attorney in Washington, D.C. “It's up to the church to decide how to exercise their religion. It's not up to the city or county.”


Bobby Ross, Jr., “Bricks and Moratoriums: Zoning Out Churches,” Christianity Today (Feb. 28, 2011)



Hartford, Conn. (Feb. 18, 2011): Hartford Courant reports on the Chabad Lubavich of Litchfield County’s lawsuit against the Borough of Litchfield. The Borough is challenging the constitutionality of RLUIPA:

 

"The federal courts have unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the RLUIPA law," said Roman Storzer, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who has represented dozens of religious groups on land-use disputes similar to the Chabad case. "The defendants' argument [made by the Borough of Litchfield] sounds like a desperate ploy to avoid the applicability of the law. This kind of argument has never been successful.”


Rinker Buck, “U.S. Justice Department Joins Jewish Group In Lawsuit Against Litchfield,” Hartford Courant (Feb. 18, 2011).



Baltimore, Md. (Nov. 29, 2010): Consent judgment filed in Riverdale Baptist Church v. Anne Arundel County case. In an important case protecting the rights of religious educational institutions to be free from discriminatory and burdensome land use regulation, the County admits liability, allows the Church to build a school for 450 students, and agrees to pay $3,250,000. A copy of the consent judgment is available here.



Baltimore, Md. (Nov. 18, 2010): Anne Arundel County agrees to settle Riverdale Baptist Church case for $3.25M:

 

On November 18, 2010, Anne Arundel County agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Storzer & Greene client Riverdale Baptist Church in federal court. The County agreed to pay the Church $3.25 million and permit it to build a 400+ student school on its 57-acre property. The settlement was reached on the 12th day of an extended jury trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Maryland.


S&G Media Release can be read here.



Baltimore, Md. (Nov. 19, 2010): Media articles on settlement of religious school litigation between Anne Arundel County, Maryland and S&G client Riverdale Baptist Church:

 

County Attorney] Hodgson Thursday admitted in court that the county - specifically the administration of then-County Executive Janet S. Owens - targeted the church with restrictive legislation and therefore violated a federal law that prevents local municipalities from blocking specific congregations from building houses of worship. He said the admission was necessary in light of "damaging testimony" from people involved in the Owens administration - perhaps most notably a former aide to Owens, Carl O. Snowden.


“County settles church school lawsuit for $3.25M, Agrees to pay Riverdale Baptist, allow construction of 440-student school,” Scott Daugherty,
The Capital.

 
Attorneys for Anne Arundel County and the Riverdale Baptist Church reached a $3.25 million settlement Thursday in a federal lawsuit claiming that county zoning laws infringed on the church's religious rights. The agreement, reached on the 12th day of lengthy jury trial, clears the way for the church to build a long-planned Baptist school on 57 acres it owns near the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian. It also requires the county to:
  • Admit that it violated a federal statute preventing the creation of local zoning laws that impose a "substantial burden" on religious freedoms without compelling cause.

• Pay the plaintiffs $3.25 million in damages and attorney fees.

• Quickly issue the building permits required for the school.

“Anne Arundel settles religious discrimination lawsuit, County will pay church $3.25 million and admit to violating federal laws,” Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun.



Indianapolis, Ind. (Sept. 23, 2010): Media coverage of lawsuit against Indianapolis in church landmarking case:

 

“The effect of the landmarking is to seriously damage the congregation and also virtually ensure the building will become a ruin. There is simply no way to preserve it, given the financial resources of the congregation,” said Robert L. Greene, an attorney representing the church with Washington, D.C.-based Storzer & Greene. The firm specializes in trying religious land-use cases nationwide.


Greg Andrews, "Church with rich history sues to shed ‘historic’ label,” Indianapolis Business Journal (Sept. 18, 2010)

Charlie Butts, “Church challenges forced landmarking,” One News Now (Sept. 23, 2010)

 

Religious liberty is being pitted against historic preservation in a federal lawsuit filed this month against the city of Indianapolis. . . . Robert L. Greene contends that Indianapolis officials have violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, passed in 2000 as a means of affirming special protection for churches, synagogues, mosques and other facilities with religious uses. "The effect of the present designation is that they can't really function as they should as a church," Greene said.


Bill McCleery, Historic building constraints prompt church to sue city,” (page 2) Indianapolis Star (Sept. 27, 2010)



Indianapolis, Indiana (Sept. 10, 2010): S&G files complaint in federal court on behalf of St. John United Church of Christ in Cumberland, Indiana, challenging Indianapolis’ landmarking of its church building.

 

“This action effectively requires the Church to maintain an ineffective and inefficient structure—one that it can no longer afford—in perpetuity,” stated Church attorney Roman P. Storzer. “This, the Constitution and federal law do not allow.”


Read the media release here and Complaint here.



Ramapo, N.Y. (Aug. 31, 2010): New York Court of Appeals will hear Rabbinical College tax exemption case:

 

The Court of Appeals will consider an Appellate Division ruling in May that Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov remains tax exempt for its camp amid 130 acres off Routes 203 and 306. The Appellate Division panel overruled a state Supreme Court justice who sided with Ramapo's decision to tax the congregation.


NY’s highest court to decide if Ramapo can tax a religious day camp, Steve Lieberman, Journal News.



Washington, D.C. (Aug. 13, 2010): Mayor of the District of Columbia’s Agent for Historic Preservation defends decision to grant S&G client Third Church of Christ, Scientist’s application to demolish church building in D.C. Court of Appeals challenge brought by preservationist groups:

 

In applying takings principles to the particular facts here, the Mayor’s Agent properly took into account that failure to grant historic-preservation clearance would interfere with Third Church’s reasonable expectations concerning its utilization of the building to enable it to continue its mission as a downtown congregation, which was vital to its existence. Moreover, putting aside the particular situation of Third Church, there is substantial evidence that the building cannot feasibly be maintained or repaired and that there are no reasonable alternative economic uses for the building.


More information is available here



June 24, 2010 (Suffern, N.Y.): S&G media release on Bikur Cholim Shabbos House settlement.

Read the United States Department of Justice’s Religious Freedom in Focus, highlighting Bikur Cholim’s case.



White Plains, N.Y. (June 17, 2010): S&G client Bikur Cholim Shabbos House and United States Department of Justice sign Consent Decrees with Village of Suffern, New York to permit operation of an existing one-family residence for free overnight lodging, kosher meals and religious observance on the Sabbath and other Holy Days for visitors or patients discharged from Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern:

 

Bikur Cholim v. Village of Suffern,
Civ. No. 05-10759.

United States v. Village of Suffern,
Civ. No. 06-7713.




Suffern, N.Y. (June 18, 2010): S&G client Bikur Cholim Shabbos House settles with Village of Suffern:

 

A New York City suburb has settled a civil rights lawsuit and will allow Orthodox Jews to gather at a house near a hospital so they can visit patients on the Sabbath without breaking their religious laws.

The village of Suffern had denied a variance from single-family zoning. Under the settlement, as many as 14 people can stay overnight at the home, known as a "Shabbos House."

The Orthodox, who typically don't drive, use electricity, exchange money or carry objects on the Sabbath, can drive to the residence on a Friday, before the Sabbath begins at sundown. They can walk to Good Samaritan Hospital during the Sabbath and drive home after it ends. Discharged patients can also stay there.


Jim Fitzgerald, suburb settles suit over Jews’ "Shabbos House," Associated Press (June 17, 2010)

“Suburban NY village will allow Orthodox Jews to gather at house near hospital on Sabbath,” Fox News (June 17, 2010)

Khurram Saeed, “Suffern settles Shabbos house lawsuits with operators and feds,” Journal-News (June 18, 2010)

“Rockland County Village Agrees To Permit ‘Shabbos House’ To Resolve U.S. Civil Rights Lawsuit,” Vos Iz Neias (June 17, 2010)

“Orthodox Union praises settlement of Bikur Cholim lawsuit,”Orthodox Union (June 18, 2010)

“Media Release,” U.S. Attorney’s Office (June 17, 2010)

Editorial, “Making room for Shabbos house,"Journal-News (June 21, 2010)



Boulder, Colo. (May 17, 2010): Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rules for Rocky Mountain Christian Church in major RLUIPA victory against Boulder County:

 

Contrary to the County’s claims, the district court plainly weighed the County’s zoning interests: the court did not agree that RMCC’s special use application violated the County Land Use Code, and found that RMCC’s statutory right to free exercise of religion outweighed the negative impacts of expansion on the community.


S&G, together with co-counsel Sidley Austin LLP, filed a brief amicus curiae supporting the Rocky Mountain Christian Church. The brief was filed on behalf of the American Jewish Congress, The National Council of Churches, the Queens Federation of Churches, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom.

Opposing the Church were various anti-RLUIPA groups, including the International Municipal Lawyers Association, National League of Cities, and the American Planning Association:

 

The denial caught the attention of land-use experts across the country, who were particularly surprised that such a decision would be handed down in a case related to Boulder County, which is known for its rigorous land-use rules.


Boulder County’s denied appeal in church expansion garners national attention, Laura Snyder, Daily Camera (May 21, 2010).



Woodboro, WI (Apr. 28, 2010): Motions filed in Bible Camp case:

 

The war of words in the five-year-old Bible camp battle continues unabated with a flurry of new paperwork totaling over 100 pages by the plaintiffs asking the court to, among other things, dismantle the defendants’ defenses and to deny the Town of Woodboro's motion to dismiss the case. The plaintiffs – brothers Arthur, Randall and Wesley Jaros, who are principals of Eagle Cove Camp & Conference Center, Inc. – are suing the Town of Woodboro and Oneida County over denials of a permit to build a Bible camp on 34 acres of land on the western end of Squash Lake.


Bible camp word war heats up, Joe Costanza, News of the North (Apr. 28, 2010)

More papers filed in Bible camp case, Heather Schaeffer, Rhinelander Daily News (Apr. 30, 2010).



Madison, WI (Mar. 10, 2010 ): Eagle Cove Camp & Conference Center files suit against Oneida County and Town of Woodboro, challenging laws and decisions prohibiting Bible camp use:

 

“Christian Bible camp ministries are a vital form of religious exercise, separate and distinct from organized churches,” states the Camp in its Complaint. . . . “Religious exercise does not only take place in church,” said Roman P. Storzer, attorney for the Camp. “Congress specifically passed RLUIPA to protect ‘any exercise of religion,’ whether it happens in a church, school, home or a Bible Camp. It is not the government’s job to tell believers how and where they may worship.”


Complaint (Filed Mar. 10, 2010).

Media Release (Mar. 10, 2010).

Bible camp group sues Oneida County, town over permit denial, Joe Costanza, News of the North (Mar. 10, 2010)

Lawsuit challenges zoning refusal for Bible camp, Howard Friedman, Religion Clause] (Mar. 12, 2010)

Lawsuit filed over Bible camp, Heather Schaeffer, Rhinelander Daily News (Mar. 11, 2010)

Eagle Cove Lawsuit, Newswatch 12] (Mar. 11, 2010)



Woodboro, WI (Feb. 11, 2010): Bible camp rejected by Oneida County

 

The five-year battle over a proposed Bible camp in the Town of Woodboro is far from over despite a written decision by the Oneida County Board of Adjustment issued Thursday, Feb. 11, that upholds a July 2009 county planning and zoning department decision to deny a conditional use permit (CUP). . . . Heading up the fight for the plaintiffs will be the New York City and Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C, . . .


Jaros to file federal lawsuit against county and town over Bible camp, News of the North (Feb. 11, 2010).

“BOA puts Bible camp decision in writing,” Rhinelander Daily News (Feb. 12, 2010)

Eagle Cove Camp, Newswatch 12 (Feb. 12, 2010).



Richmond, Va. (Jan. 26, 2010): Repeal of unconstitutional ordinances set for public hearing after lawsuit filed against Chesterfield County.

 

Chesterfield County is looking to repeal its "good character" requirements for certain business permits after a spiritual counselor filed a lawsuit accusing the county of violating her constitutional rights. . . . "It appears that the county is acknowledging the constitutional problems with their antiquated ordinances," said Moore-King's attorney, Roman P. Storzer. "We are pleased that this may be remedied soon by legislative action. It does not redress all of the legal roadblocks faced by [Moore-King], but it's a good start."


Wesley P. Hester, “Chesterfield looks to change ‘good character’ permit laws,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Jan. 26, 2010).

 

“Woogy-Boogy.” We do marvel at Chesterfield's strict rules for fortune tellers, and wonder why they're so strict. A background check? Police permission? Why on Earth? None of the surrounding localities has policies anywhere near so onerous, and they do not seem to be suffering from a fortune-telling crime wave.


Editorial, BusinessWeek (Jan. 25, 2010).

Wesley P. Hester, “Spiritual advisor suing Chesterfield County,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Jan. 21, 2010).



Richmond, VA (Dec. 21, 2009): Media coverage of King v. County of Chesterfield

 

King claims Chesterfield County unconstitutionally classifies her as "engaged in the occupation of occult sciences," and subject to its business tax and zoning rules. King says the tax is excessive and violates her First Amendment rights. She points out that other businesses, including itinerant merchants and peddlers, adult businesses and nightclubs pay significantly less in taxes.


Ryan Abbott, Courthouse News Service, (Dec. 21, 2009)

Al Harris, Richmond Biz Sense, (Dec. 21, 2009)



Rhinelander, WI (Dec. 1, 2009): S&G argue that RLUIPA applies to administrative zoning proceedings:

 

The law firm Storzer and Greene of Washington, D.C., and New York City also submitted a brief on behalf of the Jaros family which said that the BOA "has the authority and responsibility to consider RLUIPA" and in doing so has the authority to create an "exemption" from the county zoning code. Referring to the town's resistance to the project, based upon their land use plan, Storzer and Greene warned, "the Town's position here will subject the Board and its members to potential liability since religious freedom rights protected by RLUIPA are at issue. The Board and its members do so at its own risk. Such action would expose the Board and its members to years of litigation, potentially millions of dollars in damages and attorneys' fees, together with a substantial likelihood of eventually allowing the use regardless."

Ruth Sproull, "Bible Camp appeal before Board of Adjustment; ruling due Jan. 12", News of the North (Dec. 7, 2009)

Jeff Allen, “Eagle Cove Bible Camp Appeal,” WJFW Newswatch 12 (Dec. 2, 2009)

Heather Schaefer, “No resolution in Bible camp appeal,” Rhinelander Daily News (Dec. 2, 2009)



Richmond, Va. (Dec. 18, 2009): Complaint filed against County of Chesterfield claiming that regulation of “fortune-tellers” violates the First Amendment.

 

“Nobody should be subject to official disadvantage based on their spiritual beliefs,” said King’s attorney Roman P. Storzer of Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C. “The First Amendment protects a broad range of viewpoints, and Ms. King should not be treated as a second-class citizen because of hers.” Mr. Storzer is joined in representing Ms. King by John G. Stepanovich, a Chesapeake civil rights attorney, and Chandra Lantz, of the Richmond firm Hirschler Fleischer.


Press Release
Complaint filed Dec. 18, 2009



S&G and Sidley Austin LLP file brief amicus curiae in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the Rocky Mountain Christian Church in its litigation against Boulder County and in support of the constitutionality of RLUIPA.

 

In enacting RLUIPA, Congress established a record that recognizes the concern that giving government officials unbridled discretion in making such individualized assessments can, and does, lead to discrimination and the jury’s findings below further support the legitimacy of that concern.


The brief was filed on behalf of the American Jewish Congress, The National Council of Churches, the Queens Federation of Churches, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom. A copy of the brief can be found here.



Black River Falls, Wisc. (Sept. 29, 2009): S&G successfully defends Amish right to refuse to submit a signed building permit application: Wisconsin court grants the motion of S&G client National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom to dismiss the Town of Albion's suit against Samuel Stoltzfus:

 

The court was satisfied by the briefs that were filed in this matter that he did indeed establish a sincerely held religious belief that prevented him from signing a permit application. When that occurs, the burden shifts to the township to establish a compelling state interest from enforcing a requirement that a permit application be submitted and signed. . . . The court does not believe that the township has offered a compelling governmental interest to overcome the objection raised by Mr. Stolzfus on religious grounds.

This case of constitutional dimension is a case probably not only important to our community and our county and – and the State of Wisconsin, it is probably a case that has potential for national consequences.


Transcript of September 29, 2009 Hearing, Jackson County Circuit Court, Wisconsin.



Washington, D.C. (July 2009): United States Department of Justice’s “Religious Freedom in Focus” highlights the Bikur Cholim Shabbos House decision:

 

On June 25, a federal court in New York ruled that the [lawsuit] under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) should proceed to trial against a village that barred a Jewish group from operating a “Shabbos House” next to a hospital. . . . The court rejected the Village’s argument that facilitating visiting the sick on the Sabbath was not “religious exercise” for purposes of triggering the protections of RLUIPA. The court held that “religious exercise” under RLUIPA is intended “to be defined broadly,” and “covers most activity that is tied to a religious group’s mission.” Thus, the court held, Bikur Cholim’s facilitation of Sabbath observance for Jews visiting the hospital or being discharged from the hospital constitutes religious exercise under the statute.


Shabbos House’ Suit May Proceed, Court Rules, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division’s Religious Freedom Focus (Vol. 39). Storzer & Greene represents the Shabbos House and is litigating the case against the Village of Suffern together with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.



White Plains, N.Y. (June 24, 2009): Judge refuses to dismiss Shabbos House case. The federal court for the Southern District of New York held that

 

It has the power and authority, if appropriate, to enjoin defendant from enforcing its Zoning Law and requiring it to revise the Zoning Law to comply with RLUIPA and relevant constitutional provisions...


See the attached opinion. S&G’s Media Release here.

For more information, see the following:

James Walsh, "Suffern Shabbos House dispute may need a trial to get answers,” Journal News (July 3, 2009).

 

A trial appears likely in the four-year dispute between the village and the operators of a house used by observant Jews visiting patients at Good Samaritan Hospital.... Savad and Roman Storzer, a Manhattan attorney also representing Bikur Cholim, cited the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, or RLUIPA, as their protection against discrimination. Storzer also represents five other individuals suing Suffern, citing RLUIPA in opposing the village. They claimed their practice of religion was burdened by having to choose between observing the sabbath and holidays or visiting the sick at the hospital.


“Court Refuses to Dismiss RLUIPA Challenge to Shabbos House,” Religion Clause (June 30, 2009).



White Plains, N.Y. (May 20, 2009): Rabbinical College lawsuit against Village of Pomona argument heard in federal court:

 

Attorneys representing Pomona village and a developer of a planned rabbinical college had their first face-off yesterday afternoon before a U.S. District Court judge. Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov sued the village in July 2007, arguing that Pomona's land-use regulation and conduct prohibited it from building and operating the college and housing for students on a 130-acre site off routes 202 and 306. . .
Roman P. Storzer, attorney for the developer, told the judge that the village's actions have been discriminatory against Hasidic Jewish students, who simply wish to enjoy their rights to study


“Pomona, Tartikov developer clash before federal judge,” Page 2 Journal-News (May 21, 2009).



Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2009): Victory for S&G client Third Church of Christ; Brutalist building may be demolished

 

Score one for the little guy: Mayor Adrian Fenty's representative has ruled that members of a downtown church must be allowed to worship in a building of their choice, despite efforts by historic preservationists to landmark the 38-year-old concrete bunker of a sanctuary that the church wants to get rid of.


Marc Fisher, “Decision Saves a Church, Not a Building," Washington Post (May 19, 2009).

Press Release, “Church cleared for demolition: Building goes so Church can survive,” The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (May 13, 2009).

“D.C. Modernist church can be demolished,” USA Today (May 18, 2009).

"D.C. OKs demolition of Christian Science Church,” Washington Business Journal (May 13, 2009).

Kevin Eckstrom, “D.C. church wins fight to raze its ugly building,”The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (May 13, 2009).

Hayley Peterson, “Demolition OK’d for historic church after maintenance found too costly,” Washington Examiner (May 14, 2009).



Bridgewater Township, N.J. (May 9, 2009): Hindu Temple and Cultural Center Notice of Decision published, Courier News.



Washington, D.C. (May 12, 2009): District of Columbia Mayor’s Agent Approves Church Demolition

 

Nor can the Church walk away. While some congregations may freely move their location without losing their identity, that is not the case here. Throughout its history, this congregation has manifested an unwavering intent to remain where it is. Its location is its mission. To leave the area it has served since 1918 would be tantamount to its destruction.


Decision and Order, District of Columbia Office of Planning, Historic Preservation Office.



Bridgewater, N.J. (May 3, 2009): “After long legal battle, Hindu temple in Bridgewater wins expansion approval”

 

After a five-year battle with the Bridgewater zoning board, the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple has won approval for a major expansion of its facility, despite resistance from the township and neighboring residents.

The Sri Venkateswara Temple retained Storzer & Greene -- a high-profile, Washington law firm that specializes in religious land-use cases throughout the United States -- and filed a lawsuit in 2007.


David Giambusso, The Star-Ledger (May 3, 2009)



Bridgewater, N.J. (April 29, 2009): Hindu Temple and Cultural Center to build cultural center, priest housing, temple expansion:

 

“This is an important day for religious freedom,” said Temple attorney Roman P. Storzer. “The efforts of both the Temple and the Township have led to a result that works for everyone. Our clients have long awaited this moment to serve their community.”

The Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of USA has the Board of Adjustment go-ahead to expand, ending a five-year standoff on the project. The Board of Adjustment unanimously approved a resolution outlining the conditions of the project at Route 202-206 and Old Farm Road during a meeting Tuesday night.


Read S&G’s media release here. Read more information here.



Westchester County, N.Y. (April 13, 2009): Lawsuit involving shaving of Sikh man settled:

 

United Sikhs and law firm Storzer & Greene secured a settlement including $20,000 in compensation for Pyara Singh’s family, training for the facilities’ staff, and adoption of hospital care guidelines specific for the care of Sikh patients as part of the staff training materials.
“We applaud the willingness of Westchester County Health Care to accommodate the religious needs of Sikh patients,” said First Amendment attorney Roman P. Storzer. “When people are at their most vulnerable, it’s important to know that the First Amendment doesn’t get lost in the process.”


Amandeep Kaur, “Healthcare facility settles lawsuit over shaving of elderly Sikh man,” Global Sikh News (Apr. 13, 2009).



Washington, D.C. (Apr. 13, 2009): Washington Post column on Third Church landmarking suit:


 

The years-long battle over whether the District's historic preservation police can force a Christian Science church to keep a ugly, cold, expensive home that it doesn't want took a turn toward the church's side the other day, as a federal judge made clear his sympathy for the church's plight. . . . He seemed highly skeptical of the city's argument
that a religious organization's right to freedom of expression does not protect its building from demolition. "Arguing that historic landmarking posed no burden on the church blinks reality," the judge said. . . . "A violation of First Amendment rights is always ripe" material for a court to consider, Robertson said, a blow to the District's argument that preservation decisions should be made purely on architectural and historical merit--not the preferences or freedoms of a church or other group that owns such a building.


Marc Fisher, "Brutalist Church: The City Loses A Round," Washington Post (Apr. 13, 2009).



Washington, D.C. (April 7, 2009): Federal court refuses to dismiss Third Church of Christ, Scientist’s lawsuit against District of Columbia.

Roman P. Storzer, lead counsel for the Church, argued that the landmarking of its structure at the corner of 16th and Eye Streets in Washington,
D.C--only a few blocks from the White House--presents a ripe case and controversy for federal adjudication under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and the First Amendment. The District of Columbia and the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board had unsuccessfully argued that landmarking a structure itself causes no legal injury to a religious property owner.

 

The issue before the court is whether landmarking the structure violates the church's First Amendment rights. And according to [Mike] Silverstein, Judge Robertson clearly signaled his willingness to overturn the Metropolitan Baptist Church case holding that landmarking of a church does not pose a "special burden". Robertson also criticized the HPRB hearing which denied the raze permit, where Chairman Tersh Boasberg dismissed First Amendment issues as being beyond the scope of the Board's purview. "I am very troubled that the District refused to even entertain assertions of violations of First Amendment, RLUIPA and RFRA rights," Robertson said.


David Alpert, Greater Greater Washington (April 9, 2009).

“Court denies DC’s request to dismiss Church’s lawsuit to raze Brutalist building,” The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Press Release (Apr. 7, 2009).



Baltimore, Md. (Mar. 12, 2009): “Religious land use discrimination case moves forward”

 

Citizens for Walkersville is a grassroots group that organized opposition to the Muslim group's plans, and dominated public testimony during appeals board hearings in January and February 2008. It was led by Ed Marino of Walkersville, who served as president, and Steven R. Berryman of Frederick, who served as spokesman. The attorney for Citizens of Walkersville, Robert R. McGill, motioned for a universal dismissal of the case. Bennett denied the motion.


Article text here, Business Gazette.



Virginia Beach, Va. (March 17, 2009): Buddhists will continue worship services in Virginia Beach; settlement with City reached:

 

The city and a group of Buddhist monks have reached a tentative settlement that would allow them to continue holding worship services in their Pungo home. "We've accomplished our objective," said John Stepanovich, the attorney for the Buddhist Education Center of America Inc. "It was always about the continued religious service."


S&G represented the Buddhist Education Center of America, Inc. and several Buddhist monks, together with Virginia Beach attorney John G. Stepanovich.

“ Beach, Buddhist monks agree on home worship,” Deirdre Fernandes, The Virginian-Pilot (Mar. 17, 2009).



Baltimore, Md. (March 6, 2009): Federal court denies the majority of the Town of Walkersville's Motion to Dismiss; Town officials, private organization and individuals remain defendants in discrimination case:

 

The Government Defendants have not met their burden of establishing that they are entitled to immunity for the alleged constitutional violations. They have not argued with any particularity that the alleged constitutional or statutory violations were not clearly established at the time they occurred, or that an objectively reasonable person would not have known that his actions violated that person's clearly established rights...

Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint pleads ample facts to support their contention that the Private Defendants joined with the Government Defendants to block the sale of the Moxley Farm to the AMC.


S&G's Press Release is available here.
A copy of the court's opinion can be found here.

"Discrimination Suit Can Advance,”
Henri E. Cauvin, Washington Post (March 7, 2009).

”Judge moves Moxley v. Walkersville case ahead,” Ron Cassie, Frederick News Post (March 7, 2009).



Baltimore, Md. (February 27, 2009): Roman Storzer defended the lawsuit involving Walkersville's denial of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's special exception to build a mosque on a 200+ acre property against the Walkersville and private defendants' motions to dismiss in a hearing in United States District Court in Baltimore. The court is expected to rule on the motion by Friday, March 6.

 

A key early motion presented by the defense to Judge Richard D. Bennett seeks to remove the Walkersville burgess, town commissions andmembers of the board of appeals from the suit as individuals -- apart from their official roles.

Storzer remained encouraged after the first day both parties were in court. Asked if he thought Bennett would rule in favor of allowing the burgess, commissioners, and appeals board members to remain defendants as individuals, Storzer commented, "We're very hopeful."


For further reading please visit the link below:
Religious bias suit begins in U.S. District Court,
Ron Cassie, Frederick News Post
(March 2, 2009).



White Plains, N.Y. (March 10, 2009): Mr. Storzer, together with co-counsel Paul Savad and John Stepanovich, will defend the Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov's lawsuit against the Village of Pomona, New York. The College's Complaint states:

 

The history described [in the complaint], including the targeted laws, actions and conduct, and the statements made by public officials including the newly elected Mayor Sanderson, demonstrate the entrenched hostility to the Plaintiffs' use of the Subject Property as a Rabbinical College.


The hearing before the Honorable Judge Kenneth M. Karas in the Southern District of New York was postponed from February 10.

"Tartikov Yeshiva Dispute Returns To Court Next Week," Yeshiva World News (Feb. 1, 2009).

"Pomona, NY - Tartikov Town Dispute Back in Court," Voz Iz Neias (Feb. 1, 2009).



Baltimore, Md.
(February 27, 2009): The Town of Walkersville's motion to dismiss the complaint filed against it, challenging its land use policies and enforcement concerning the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, will be heard on February 27, 2009 in federal district court for the District of Maryland.



Washington, D.C. (February 6, 2009): S&G files Amicus Curiae brief on behalf of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom, and the Rutherford Institute. In a case involving the desecration of a site holy to Native Americans, the brief argues that the Ninth Circuit incorrectly defined "substantial burdens" on religious practice and drastically limited the scope of statutory protections of religious freedom.

A copy of the brief is available here
Storzer & Greene's press release can be found here
The Petition for a Writ of Certiorari is available here

For further reading, visit the links below:
"Tribes & Environmental Groups Petition Supreme Court in Appeal to Protect Religious Freedom & Environmental Integrity of Sacred Mountain," Klee Benally, Save the Peaks Coalition (January 6, 2009)

"San Francisco Peaks," Amy Corbin, Sacred Land Film Project (August 2007)



New York, NY (November 26, 2008): Federal Court of Appeals upholds right of congregation to build a religious school under settlement reached with the Village of Airmont, New York:

 

The defendants assert that inasmuch as the settlement and order were contrary to state law, they were void and should be vacated because they violated the defendants' due process rights. They contend that the settlement violates state law because it allows the plaintiffs to build a residential school that is not permitted under the Village of Airmont's zoning code. . . . None of these cases, nor any other of which we are aware, stands for the proposition that a court-ordered settlement agreement that is contrary to zoning or similar laws violates a party's due-process rights and is therefore subject to attack under Rule 60(b)(4) as void.


Renowned civil rights attorney John G. Stepanovich argued the case for the Congregation Mischknois Lavier, with assistance from S&G. The opinion can be found here. In the related case brought by the United States Department of Justice against the Village, the District Court rejected the Village’s motion to dismiss the United States’ complaint, decision here. See also the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s “Religious Freedom in Focus,” Vol. 36 (Nov. 2008).



Grand Rapids, Michigan (October 30, 2008): S&G Client Great Lakes Society vindicated by Michigan Court of Appeals in landmark case challenging a township’s determination that a non-mainstream church was “not a church”:

 

Already over half a century ago, the Court of Appeals of New York handed down an often cited summary of what constitutes a church in contemporary society: “A church is more than merely an edifice affording people the opportunity to worship God. Strictly religious uses and activities are more than prayer and sacrifice and all churches recognize that the area of their responsibility is broader than leading the congregation in prayer. Churches have always developed social groups for adults and youth where the fellowship of the congregation is strengthened with the result that the parent church is strengthened . . .”


Read the opinion here. Now that the township’s wrongful determination has been corrected, the Great Lakes Society’s pursuit of legal remedy continues.



Wall Street Journal column on S&G landmarking case
 

The congregation, which bitterly opposed landmark designation in December 2007, filed a federal lawsuit this August arguing that the designation violated its First Amendment rights by restraining its ability to practice religion freely. . . . [T]his case is more outrageous than the norm, given the structure in question. Most such controversies swirl around church properties of a certain age, as when, in 1981, St. Bartholomew's Church on Park Avenue in New York sought, in vain, to demolish its lovely community house in order to build a modernist tower alongside its renowned Byzantine church, constructed in 1916. The Third Church's building, by contrast, is relatively new -- indeed, too new to be designated historic under federal law.”


Julia Vitullo-Martin, "A Congregation Fights for the Right to Raze Its Ugly Church,” Wall Street Journal Nov. 20, 2008. More information about the Third Church and its lawsuit can be found here



Trial, Journal of the American Association for Justice, writes about the Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov’s attempt to build a religious educational facility:

 

This case presents a really clear set of circumstances," said Roman Storzer, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who is co-counsel for the rabbinical college involved. "It shows a substantial burden being placed on a particular faith group and is a perfect case for the equal-terms provision of [RLUIPA]. It is an emblematic case of why Congress passed the statute." . . . "This represents a boiling-over point for Rockland County," said Storzer. "There has been a large influx of “[Hasidic Jews]” into the county, who have a very different lifestyle, form of worship, and form of education. The backlash began in the '90s and the discrimination has continued."


Municipalities wrangle with religion over zoning laws, Carmel Sileo, Trial.



Walkersville, Md. (August 28, 2008): Walkersville Commissioner proposes to amend ordinance to permit school on agricultural land; AMC mosque still prohibited:

 

Town Commissioner Chad Weddle said Wednesday he could see how some might view his recent proposal to amend a planning ordinance as discriminatory, but his intentions are only to better the community. . . .

Roman P. Storzer, an attorney for Moxley, said he applauds local governments that accommodate schools and other social institutions, though he wishes the same benefits would have been offered to the Muslim group.


Proposal would allow Banner School in Walkersville -- Change would still block Muslim community, Sarah Fortney, Frederick News Post



Richmond, Va.
(August 29, 2008): The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s editorial on S&G client Third Church of Christ’s lawsuit against the District of Columbia: “The District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia need to stop brutalizing the sacred sphere.”



Washington, D.C. (Aug. 21, 2008): NPR’s story on the Third Church of Christ’s challenge to the landmarking of its place of worship by the District of Columbia can be found here



Washington, D.C. (August 7, 2008): S&G client Third Church of Christ, Scientist files suit against the District of Columbia for landmarking its church building. Read our press release here.

 

Lead counsel Roman Storzer said the church is suing to remove the landmark status so it can build a new building in its place. Storzer claimed that the landmark restrictions are in violation of federal civil rights law about religious land use as well as the First Amendment’s guarantees for freedom of worship.

“In the hierarchy of values that should be protected, freedom of religion has to come before architecture,” Storzer said.

Church files suit to allow demolition of historic downtown building, Michael Warren, D.C. Examiner (Aug. 7, 2008).

 

"It will be the first of its kind in terms of the ability of a government to prevent a church from being able to worship as it sees fit through the imposition of historic preservation laws," says Roman Storzer, the church's attorney who filed the lawsuit.

Congregation fights for right to tear down church, Adam Tuss, WTOP News (Aug. 7, 2008).
Church sues over landmark status, Sarah Abruzzese, New York Times (Aug. 7, 2008).
Church sues do undo landmark status, Sindya Bhanoo, Washington Post (Aug. 8, 2008).
Church sues District over landmark, Tom Ramstack, Washington Times (Aug. 8, 2008).




Brief Filed in Wisconsin For National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom.

Black River Falls, Wisconsin June 23, 2008: Storzer & Greene and Black River Falls attorney, Ken Artis, today filed a brief seeking to have the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom intervene in a case in which the town of Albion, Wisconsin, is seeking fines ranging from $25.00 to $1,000.00 per day from an Amish farmer who did not obtain a building permit for his home, a house which he built according to Amish traditional techniques.

 

According to the brief, the Committee will attempt to intervene in the case to protect the right of religious freedom for the Amish under both the Wisconsin and the United States Constitution. Greene, the attorney representing the Committee, said[,] "This is a value of the very highest order."

“Amish farmer may get national legal help in permit case,” Megan VerHelst, Jackson County Chronicle (July 15, 2008).



Walkersville, MD. (June 10, 2008): A Muslim group was unanimously denied the ability to use 224 acres of farmland intended as a mosque and for their annual Jalsa Salana event; various remedies are available to landowner David Moxley.

 

It is a "sad, sad situation," when Ahmadiyya members are not allowed to worship freely in America; many moved from their native countries to escape the same persecution for their beliefs. Moxley could also take the case to federal court to deal with potential civil rights violations, Storzer said. That option would seek enforcement of the religious freedom protections in the federal and Maryland constitutions and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.


For further reading please visit the links below:

It's official: Walkersville formally denies Muslim group,
Sarah Fortney, Frederick News Post (June 6, 2008)

Landowner in Ahmadiyya decision considers appeal, Sarah Fortney, Frederick News Post
(June 7, 2008)

Walkersville Officially Denies Muslim Farm Purchase; Attorneys May Appeal, Megan Healey, NBC25
(June 5, 2008)



New York, NY (May 30, 2008): Storzer & Greene to defend religious liberty of Amish.

 

S&G has been retained by the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom to defend the rights of the Amish to follow their religious beliefs in the construction of homes and farm buildings. The Town of Albion, located in Jackson County, Wisconsin, has sued several Amish men for an assortment of alleged building code violations. The Old Order Amish have a religious code that emphasizes simplicity, the imitation of Christ and his disciples and separation from outside society.
The National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom has a long history of defending the rights of the Amish to exercise their religion freely. Since many Amish believe that their religion requires them to turn the other cheek when they are subjected to persecution or legal harassment, the Committee organizes legal defense. It was instrumental in the seminal victory for religious rights, Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), as well as many other significant cases.




Frederick, Md. (May 29, 2008): Walkersville’s written decision prohibiting a small group of Muslims from building a mosque in suburban Maryland is expected soon. Decision on Muslim retreat center due June 5, Jeremy Hauck, Gazette (May 29, 2008).



Greenbelt, Md. (May 14, 2008): Bethel World Outreach Ministries challenges County actions against church development:

 

This church had a very substantial need for a facility that can accommodate its various ministries, and it purchased property in a zoning district that allowed places of worship and has been prevented from building its church by various means ever since,” said Roman P. Storzer, the church’s attorney.


Brendan Kearney, The Daily Record (May 14, 2008).



Bridgewater, N.J. (Mar. 26, 2008): Bridgewater zoning board of adjustment approves memorandum of understanding with S&G client Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of USA:

 

Although it is unfortunate that the Temple was forced to seek redress in the courts, a just result will hopefully be reached soon,” said Temple attorney Roman P. Storzer. “The Temple looks forward to being able to provide religious programs to its members, to co-exist harmoniously with its neighbors, and to put this four-year saga behind it.


For further information, see our press release
Hindu temple expansion in Bridgewater may be allowed, Ralph Ortega, The Star-Ledger (March 26, 2008).



New City, NY (Mar. 18, 2008): Roman Storzer to testify before the Rockland County legislature, joined by co-counsel Paul Savad and John Stepanovich, criticizing a Resolution calling upon the United States Congress to review the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

 

Zoning laws have been used in the County time and time again to discriminate against and burden the religious exercise of an identifiable group that constitutes a substantial minority of the population: Hasidic Jews. In that respect, Rockland County is different in my experience from any other county in the country. This specific demographic, with their unique culture, worship and education, often clashes with the rest of the population and land use goals. All too often, the response is that if their way of life is different, they should go elsewhere. RLUIPA should not be used as a sword, some say, since it was meant as a shield. This kind of hyperbole is not helpful. Either religious exercise is protected or it is not. . . . .

I urge you to consider the implications for all of the citizens of Rockland County if this Resolution passes. If it does, we will make sure that Congress is also informed about what’s really going on in Rockland, and why RLUIPA is so necessary.


Read Mr. Storzer’s testimony here.
Read the Journal News article here.



Lansing, Michigan, (Mar. 9, 2008): Michigan church petitions Supreme Court for review:

 

But what constitutes a "substantial burden" is up for debate, said Roman Storzer, a Washington D.C.-based lawyer with his own firm that represents religious groups across the country. "Churches and mosques and synagogues occupy a special place in our society," he said. "When you have disasters or there is a need, they open their doors. They provide social services to the needy, and they are a great benefit to society. In return, for many, many decades, municipalities have reciprocated by granting them leeway in regard to zoning issues."

But the climate regarding development has changed. Today, "people are opposed to development of any kind near them," Storzer said. The law [RLUIPA], he said, gives religious communities an opportunity to challenge zoning decisions and requires municipalities to "give a real reason for the denial."


Higher power: Okemos church case heads to top U.S. court, Kathleen Lavey, Lansing State Journal.



Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post reports on a Calvert County church's legal victory:

 

In a test of wills, church vs. state, the church wins the first round. . . . "The government needs a very good reason to shut down a church," said Roman P. Storzer, a District lawyer who represents religious organizations in religious land-use cases.


Judge Rejects Attempt to Close Huntingtown Church Pantry, Center, Christy Goodman, Washington Post C4 (Mar. 2, 2008).



Response to Walkersville Editorial:

 

Your Feb. 13 editorial ("Let it be") recommends that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and David Moxley give up in their attempt to use the 224-acre parcel in Walkersville as a mosque for a few dozen families and their annual Jalsa Salana event. . . . Are our fundamental freedoms so cheap that they can be set aside because it may take a few minutes longer to get home from work once a year? . . . Who actually believes that the introduction of an amendment banning places ofworship from the agricultural zone two days after the AMC's presentation was mere coincidence? The Constitution and civil rights laws protect the AMC and all of us against actions like these, just as they protect all of us from denials of other fundamental rights. Should it have been said that African-Americans being denied the vote "let it be?" Or that women denied job opportunities should "let it be?" Or that disabled individuals denied access to government buildings should "let it be?"


Column, Roman Storzer, Frederick News Post (Feb. 24, 2008).



Baltimore, Md (Feb. 18, 2008): The Daily Record reports on religious institutions and zoning laws:

 

Roman P. Storzer, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represents religious groups in RLUIPA litigation, said he believes Maryland has seen few cases because it is a relatively densely populated state. City-dwellers tend to be used to diversity and more tolerant of minority religions, he said.

“I think that exhibits a general tolerance toward religious institutions in this state, and in most cases towns and counties realize the importance of religion and religious institutions in public life and treat them with respect,” said Storzer, of Storzer & Greene PLLC. “There are, of course, exceptions. … In those cases, it’s good that there are constitutional and statutory protections that prevent discrimination and burdensome restriction

“The other interesting thing is that in the great majority of these cases, my clients are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, exactly the kind of minority that have been targeted in the past and the reason Congress passed this legislation,” he said. “That’s indicative of the fact that there truly is discrimination going on.”
.


Religious institutions claim federal law trumps local zoning and land-use codes, Caryn Tamber, The Daily Record.



Lawrence, N.Y. (Feb. 14, 2008): Another RLUIPA success story for S&G client:

 

So, disagreements over new shuls still do arise and need to be resolved. To that end, last week the zoning board of the Village of Lawrence—after months of analysis, deliberation, and consultation on the matter—consented to allow a new shul, Congregation Heichel Dovid, to shortly begin functioning on a daily basis. The shul had previously been granted permission to operate on Shabbos and yom tov as well as on several additional days on the Jewish calendar.


”A New Shul Story,” Larry Gordon, 5 Towns Jewish Times.



Walkersville, Md. (Feb. 13, 2008): Local paper editorializes on AMC project:

 

We have suggested earlier that there may well be some anti-Muslim sentiment in Walkersville. That would not make Walkersville any different than many, if not most, other places…

Storzer says a challenge to the decision could be made on federal and state constitutional issues or via the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Perhaps, but even if the AMC were able to successfully challenge the zoning board ruling, we believe, after all that has transpired, that it would be a flawed decision for them to move forward with their plans for this religious center.


Let it be, Frederick News Post



Washington, D.C. (Feb. 8, 2008): The Washington Post reports on the AMC conflict:

 

"This conflict has been defined from day one by a desire to keep a Muslim group out of the area," attorney Roman Storzer said in a statement.

It is unconstitutional to make land-use decisions on religious or racial grounds, so the town could deny the sect's proposal only if it identified legitimate concerns about traffic, infrastructure or planning.


Frederick Town Board Rejects Mosque Plan, Philip Rucker.

Landowner's attorney considering legal options, Gina Gallucci, Frederick News Post.

Town votes to ban Muslim development, David Dishneau, Washington Times.

Lawyer Calls Maryland Town's Decision to Bar Muslim Group From Gatherings 'Discriminatory', Fox News.



Lawrence, N.Y. (Feb. 8, 2008): The Village of Lawrence, New York, granted S&G client Congregation Heichel Dovid a variance for its synagogue over the objections of organized community opposition. As this Firm informed the Village,

 

The denial of the parking variance, or the limitation of the parking variance only to Sabbath services and Holy Day observance, would violate the Congregation’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the New York Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), and New York’s civil rights statutes. Such action would expose the Village to years of litigation, potentially millions of dollars in damages and attorneys’ fees, together with a substantial likelihood of eventually allowing the use.





Walkersville, Md.
(Feb. 7, 2008): Walkersville Board of Appeals rejects Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's application:

 

On February 7, 2008, the Walkersville Board of Appeals rejected the application of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community ("AMC") to use a 224-acreparcel of land as a place of worship In agriculturally zoned land that permits such uses by special exception. The Board's deliberations suggested that it was adopting a position that locating on Route 194 was inappropriate for the mosque, even though the State Highway Administration did not list any objections to the plan.

"The Board's decision is both irrational and discriminatory," said attorney Roman Storzer. "Irrational because the suggestion that locating on a smaller country road is better than a major arterial makes no sense from a land use perspective. Discriminatory because this conflict has been defined from day one by a desire to keep a Muslim group out of the area."


Press Release (Feb. 7, 2008); Walkersville Board Votes Down Muslim Recreation Center,
NBC (Feb. 7, 2008)



Walkersville, Md (Feb. 7, 2008): S&G informs Town of implications of religious freedom law if it excludes Muslim congregation.

 

David W. Moxley, owner of the Nicodemus Farm, has retained the services of Storzer and Greene, a New York and Washington, D.C. firm that specializes in the statute, known as RLUIPA. Storzer outlined the statute for the board on Jan. 15, and the appeals board on Jan. 16 asked for an
in-depth workshop from O'Connor.

One aspect of the statute that Storzer spelled out, called the "equal terms" provision, states that governments cannot treat non-religious gatherings
more favorably than religious gatherings. "The entire focus of this hearing has been on the one weekend a year event," Storzer said. "And we all know the town has other large events that are hosted here annually."


Executive session expected on center, Jeremy Hauck, The Gazette (Jan. 24, 2008).

 

The valiant efforts of those who want to keep the Muslims out may not count for much in the end. Moxley attorney Roman Storzer cited case after case to support his arguments, including Marks v City of Chesapeake, where a court held that a local government "may not adopt the discriminatory biases of their residential population."

Which is, in part, why residents carefully sidestepped the talk of Muslims, talk that figured prominently in earlier discussions.

Since opponents organized into the for-profit Citizens of Walkersville and procured the talents of a local disability rights lawyer, they've toned down the rhetoric, but too little too late. Their choice of spokesperson doesn't bode well for their image, either. Spotlight-loving Steve Berryman, a Dearbought resident with children in Walkersville schools, is not shy about taking credit for the bloviated anti-Muslim creeds, and photos of hishome-security gun collection that he publishes on the web...

Walkersville's not so different from other small towns feeling invaded by immigrants and overdevelopment. When fear of the unknown is added to the mix, especially one that walks and talks like our country's sworn enemy, some opposition is inevitable.

But that doesn't make it right.


The 'M-word', Katherine Heerbrandt, Frederick News Post (Jan. 23, 2008).



Bridgewater, N.J.: The Star-Ledger reports on the
Hindu Temple and Cultural Center litigation:

 

A plan to significantly expand the temple's complex, located off Route 206 at Old Farm Road, has been stalled before the township board ofadjustment for nearly four years. The most controversial element of the plan, a bid to more than double the size of the temple's 9,800-square-foot cultural center, has been rejected by the board three times.

The temple has argued the cultural center is integral to the practice of Hinduism. In July 2007, the temple [represented by S&G] filed a federal case claiming violations of the First and 14th Amendments, as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the temple would be allowed to build a 20,500-square-foot cultural center, but would have to agree to a 10-year moratorium on expansion.


"Hindu temple close to settling suit"
, Page 2
The Star-Ledger (Jan. 29, 2008).



White Plains, N.Y.
(Jan. 26, 2008): Congregation opposes Village of Pomona's motion to dismiss lawsuit:

 

The congregation's response, filed last week, says that the village's motion to dismiss is an effort to direct the court's attention away from its complaint, ignoring "the true undercurrent of what is happening in Pomona, where a new administration was elected on a platform ofkeeping the plaintiffs out of the 'close knit community.'"

One of the village's arguments in asking the judge to dismiss the case was that the congregation rushed into court to file the lawsuit without tryingto use available avenues under the village's zoning law.

In the opposition filing, the congregation disagreed with the argument, saying the village is telling Tartikov to "apply for administrative relief that doesn't exist." "This case is about the plaintiff's right to live in a community free from discriminatory, burdensome, and unreasonableregulations, and free to engage in their constitutionally protected religious speech, worship, and education," the document stated.


Rabbinical college asks judge to keep suit against Pomona alive, Akiko Matsuda, The Journal News
(Jan. 26, 2008).



Professor Patricia E. Salkin's (Director of the Government Law Center of Albany Law School) take on the federal court's decision in favor of S&G client Albanian Associated Fund against the Township of Wayne, N.J. on its attempt "taking" of the AAF's mosque property:

 

The issue the District Court did resolve, however, was whether RLUIPA even applied to the facts in this case. The Township attempted to frame their actions as a condemnation proceeding, arguing that RLUIPA does not apply based on cases from other jurisdictions holding that eminent domain is not a land use. The District Court . . . determined that [the] RLUIPA challenge in this case "does not go to the actual taking, but rather to the implementation of the open space plan which is a land use regulation." . . .

Now that the Court has determined that RLUIPA does apply, I predict a settlement will likely be in cards. The Township will otherwise have to take a chance that a Court will find the preservation of environmentally sensitive areas a compelling governmental interest and that this is the least restrictive means of dealing with it. Since the facts are in dispute, unless and until it is sorted out by the trial court, the opinion indicates that it is unclear what the true motivations of the Township might be.


Township Open Space Plan is a Land Use Regulation Subject to RLUIPA, Law of the Land




Walkersville, Md (Jan. 17): Organized opposition to Mosque continues...

 

The Citizens for Walkersville testimony continued. Jeff Schouw presented a slide show and video showing Jalsa Salana participants in other countries. Roman P. Storzer, an attorney representing Moxley, asked Schouw why he played the video, which contained flags, a march and voices screaming in a foreign language. Schouw said it demonstrated what could occur in Walkersville if the special exception is granted.


Dozens testify, most cite reasons Muslim retreat center should be denied by Jeremy Hauck, Jeremy Hauck, Business Gazette (Jan. 17, 2008)

  WALKERSVILLE -- When Roman Storzer broached the subject of religious intolerance at a Board of Zoning Appeals hearing Friday, he was quickly silenced...

Board steers clear of religious questions, Gina Gallucci, Frederick News-Post(Jan. 12, 2008)



Walkersville, Md. (Jan. 3, 2008): Retreat center’s application to be heard starting January 8:

 

Moxley’s lawyer, Roman P. Storzer, of Washington, D.C.-based Storzer and Greene, is ready to take the town to court if either the Zoning Board of Appeals or the Board of Commissioners denies the Muslims the right to build a retreat center on the farmland, he said.

‘‘If the action is taken to prevent this group from locating there, and litigation ensues, then the town’s administration is going to have to face a jury of its peers and be able to answer for their actions,” Storzer said in a telephone interview.

Read Here



FOXNEWS: Maryland Politician Fights Group’s Plans to Build Mosque on Farmland (Nov. 2, 2007): Discussing Walkersville, Maryland’s continued efforts to prevent a Mosque from locating within its jurisdiction:

  Mayor Ralph Whitmore said, some residents are "apprehensive of Muslims." Tensions are still there. We have a lot of people here who haven't forgotten 9/11."

Whitmore says people who have loved ones fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have reservations about Muslims in the community, and fear remains after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "We're not a very diverse community," the mayor said.

Roman Storzer, a Washington lawyer who represents David Moxley, the owner of the farmland, calls the issue hostile. Moxley is seeking to sell the farmland to the group. "Tender or not, this is one of the most blatant examples of hostility to a particular religious group that I have ever seen," Storzer said.



State dismisses NAACP civil-rights complaint against Spring Valley medical clinic, Journal-News (Nov. 1, 2007):

  The NAACP filed the complaint in September 2006, claiming among other things that the clinic's practice of closing on Saturdays to accommodate the Jewish Sabbath was discriminatory.

Roman P. Storzer, a lawyer for the clinic from the firm Storzer & Greene, said his clients were happy with the decision.

"They are very pleased with the outcome and they're looking forward to getting back to what they do best, which is serving the community," Storzer said today.


UPDATE (Nov. 2, 2007):

  The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed the complaint in August 2006, characterizing as discriminatory the clinic's practice of closing on Saturdays to accommodate the Jewish Sabbath. The clinic's operators are Jewish.

"My clients are interested in serving the community to the best of their capacities and ... it's a determination that they have to make on the merits of the issue, not based on some spurious complaint by the NAACP," [Storzer] said.



Peekskill, New York (Oct. 31, 2007): New York State Division of Human Rights dismissed the NAACP of Spring Valley’s complaint against S&G client Ben Gilman Spring Valley Medical & Dental Clinic (alleging that closing the clinic on the Jewish Sabbath was discriminatory) determining:

  After investigation, and following opportunity for review of related information and evidence by the named parties, the Division has determined that there is NO PROBABLE CAUSE to believe that the respondents have engaged in or are engaging in the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of.

The Clinic defended against the charges, stating that New York civil rights laws do not prohibit closing on the Sabbath, and the First Amendment protects the Clinic’s right to do so.

 

“This complaint should never have been filed,” said Roman P. Storzer, who represented the Clinic pro bono. “The NAACP has done admirable work in pursuit of civil rights. However, religious accommodation benefits, rather than takes away from the laudable goal of diversity in our community.”


More information here



Walkersville, Md.: Meeting of Town officials with "citizens group" opposed to Muslim worship center prompts request from landowner; Storzer & Greene prepared to seek redress of any legal violations resulting from Town's actions,
Media Release (October 23, 2007):

  This is one of the most blatant examples of hostility to a Particular religious group that I have ever seen," said Roman P. Storzer, attorney for Mr. Moxley. "This is exactly why Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Zoning permits should not be denied and> ordinances should not be passed to keep a particular religious group out, just because they may 'change the culture' or are perceived as different or unfamiliar to the community.

Read about the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's plight in the International Herald Tribune and the Washington Post.



Court decision upholds right to build church, Roger Severino, Grand Valley Advance (Aug. 7, 2007) (letter to the editor):

  Thus, the Society won the right to build its church, as it originally envisioned, on its land despite the Township's best (and illegal) efforts to block its construction.

Speaking more broadly, the judge upheld the constitutional principle that believers, not bureaucrats, get to decide what their church is supposed to look like.


Read about the Great Lakes Society's RLUIPA victory here and here



Judge sides with allergen-free church, Matt Vande Bunte, Grand Rapids Press (July 26, 2007): Reporting on S&G client Great Lakes Society's First Amendment, Equal Protection & RLUIPA victory against Georgetown Township, Michigan:

  In a recent opinion, Ottawa County Circuit Judge Calvin Bosman agreed the township violated the church's religious freedom under the Constitution and a Religious Land Use Act signed into law in 2000 by then-President Clinton. "Judge Bosman has done a great deal to help us rebuild our reputation," [Pastor John] Cheetham said. "He acknowledged that we were trying to build a special building to cater to people with chemical sensitivity. For us, it's an important part of Christ's mission ... to recognize the special needs of people."

Bosman ruled the proposed building qualifies as a church because people would gather there to worship. The township's opposition obstructs the church's religious freedom, he wrote. "There is no dispute that the members of (the society) are physically unable to attend worship services in any conventional church," Bosman wrote. "The (township's) action effectively prevents the members ... from worshipping at all.


Read the story here

Lead Counsel Roman Storzer, who argued the case on June 14, is joined by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and John Karafa of the firm McCroskey, Feldman, Cochrane & Brock, P.L.C.

Read The Becket Fund's Press Release here



"A yeshiva? Not in our village," Michal Lando, Jerusalem Post, reporting on the Rabbinical College matter in Rockland County, New York:

  The college chose Pomona in part because it is close to Monsey, another haredi outpost, where students and their families will have access to facilities such as kosher supermarkets and yeshivas for their children.

Before the Holocaust, each Orthodox community had its own beit din religious court that handled issues such as marriage, divorce and financial disputes. Since then, the number of courts has dwindled drastically, and so has the number of rabbis qualified to sit on them. . . .

. . . Once there will be more rabbinical courts and judges, in the community, I'm sure there will be more Jewish people, even not religious, who will start going to rabbinical courts to be judged according to the Halacha."

The college is gearing up for what it expects will be a heated fight for the right to develop the land. It has hired Roman Storzer, an expert on the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which states that municipal regulations cannot impose a substantial burden on religious practices. It also hired John Stepanovich, who has worked on similar cases in Airmont, New York.

Read the story here



Albanian Muslims seek OK for site in Wayne, Andrea Alexander, The Record (July 26, 2007):

  Attorneys for the Paterson-based Albanian group, however, argued the federal law applied because the town wanted to take the property to enforce its land-use policies to preserve open space. The attorneys for the Albanian group also are asking Sheridan to find that preserving open space is not a compelling government interest that trumps the freedom of religious exercise. . . .

A Justice Department official appeared in court Wednesday to back the Albanian groups' discrimination claims. Ryan Lee, a Justice Department attorney, argued that there was "circumstantial evidence of discriminatory intent'' in the township's actions.

Read the story here

Justice Department Supports Muslim Group In Its RLUIPA Lawsuit Howard Friedman, Religious Clause (July 25, 2007):

  The Justice Department argued, however, that the township's deliberate prolonging of the application process for a permit amounted to the kind of discrimination prohibited by RLUIPA.



Temple expansion fight lands in U.S. court, Kara Richardson, The Courier News (July 25, 2007):

  BRIDGEWATER -- Members of the Hindu Temple & Cultural Center are going to a higher authority -- federal court -- with a lawsuit seeking expansion of their temple.

Attorneys for the center filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court, Newark.

The federal court is a more appropriate venue to settle civil-rights claims," said Roman P. Storzer, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney representing the temple. Storzer plans to fight the Board of Adjustment, which denied expansion plans, on two fronts: the First Amendment (freedom of religion) and the Religious Land Use Protection Act, a federal statute that allows the right to practice religion to override some land-use laws.

Read more about the Temple's efforts in Hindu temple
trying new legal remedy
, Nyier Abdou, The Star-Ledger (May 17, 2007).


S&G argues Albanian Associated Fund case in Newark (July 25, 2007): Roman Storzer today argued before federal District Judge Peter Sheridan that the Township of Wayne's attempted seizure of the AAF's land, slated for a mosque, is unconstitutional. (S&G had previously obtained a preliminary injunction preventing the taking.) Also joining the argument was an attorney from the United States Department of Justice, which submitted a brief amicus curiae, arguing that there was sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that "the Township commenced eminent domain proceedings against the Mosque to thwart the Mosque's application for a CUP and thereby appease residents hostile to the Mosque." A decision is expected in September.



Bridgewater, N.J. (July 23, 2007): S&G filed suit today on behalf of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of USA against the Township of Bridgewater, New Jersey, for its repeated refusal to allow the Temple to build a cultural center on the Temple's 23 acre property in order to house its religious programs. Even though a majority of the Township's zoningboard voted to permit the cultural center, a supermajority vote was required. The action was filed in federal district court in order topreserve its rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use andInstitutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"). More information soon.



S&G client Great Lakes Society victorious in civil rights lawsuit against Georgetown Township, Michigan (July 23, 2007): Court rules that Township violated church's rights under the federal Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses, the Michigan Constitution, RLUIPA, and the church's right to freedom of association. More information soon.



U.S. backs lawsuit against Wayne," Andrea Alexander, The Record (July 24, 2007):The U.S. Department of Justice said the township's actions against the Paterson-based Albanian Associated Fund bore the "classic trademarks'' of discrimination. In court papers, the government said there was reason to conclude the township tried to take the property for open space to stop members of the fund from building a mosque and community center in the township. . . .

  "The Albanian Fund simply wants to be left alone," said Roman Storzer, the attorney representing the group in federal court. "They bought a property where a church is a permitted use, and the township has been doing everything in their power to prevent them from building a mosque.''

Read the story here



United States Department of Justice files brief supporting S&G client Albanian Associated Fund and Imam Arun Polozani in RLUIPA lawsuit (July 19, 2007): The Department of Justice criticizes Township of Wayne, N.J.’s arguments in attempted condemnation of religious organization’s land.

  The environmental nature of Mosque’s land was of no specific concern to the Township until after the Mosque filed its CUP application. As mentioned above, the Township did not deem the Mosque’s land too environmentally sensitive to be developed in 1987 or 1994. However, once the Mosque submitted a CUP application, the Township “became a bundle of activity.” Id. There is evidence that shows the Planning Board departed from its usual practice and decided to withhold approval of the CUP until all outstanding matters were resolved, and twenty hearings and three years were not sufficient to permit it to render a resolution on the merits. The Township enacted an Open Space Ordinance and formed an Open Space Committee that, contrary to the directive of the Ordinance, operated under a rule of thumb that targeted the Mosque’s land for acquisition. The Township Council subsequently commenced eminent domain proceedings to take the Mosque’s land for open space, even though it has never before condemned property for this reason. Like the court in Cottonwood, the finder of fact could conclude that the Township’s claim that it commenced eminent domain proceedings to preserve the Mosque’s land for open space “rings hollow” and that in reality the Township was “simply trying to keep [the Mosque] out of the [Township], or at least from the use of its own land.

Read the United States’ brief here. The case against the Township of Wayne continues, with a hearing scheduled for July 25, 2007.


Rabbinical College files suit against discriminatory zoning laws in Pomona, N.Y

  We need to stop the Village of Pomona, and municipalities across the country, from using their zoning power as a tool to control unpopular religious groups," Storzer said.

Journal News story here
Newsday story here
Brooklyn Daily Eagle story here.



Federal court rules for Baptist school in RLUIPA case (Baltimore, Md.): On April 6, 2007, federal judge J. Frederick Motz ruled against Anne Arundel County in its attempt to dismiss the Riverdale Baptist Church's lawsuit, which describes various civil rights violations caused by the County's land use regulations.

  The County's history of targeting and ill treatment of Riverdale Baptist Church's attempt to build a school offering a Christian-based education raises serious and important legal questions," said Roman P. Storzer, who argued the case for the Church. "The Church will get its day in court.

More information about the lawsuit can be found here. Proceedings continue.



Federal court upholds settlement in Airmont, N.Y. case (White Plains, N.Y.): On March 29, 2007, Judge Stephen C. Robinson rejected the Village of Airmont's attempt to back out of its obligations entered into under a 2005 settlement with Congregation Mischknois Lavier Yakov, allowing it to build a religious school. The Congregation was assisted by both Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C. and by the United States Department of Justice, which filed its own action against Airmont for violating RLUIPA. The court held:

  That the Airmont Defendants now dislike the consequences of something they previously agreed to is not a ground upon which this Court can or would vacate a judgment.

S&G congratulates John G. Stepanovich of Lentz, Stepanovich & Bergethon, P.L.C., lead counsel for the Congregation. Read the court's decision here



Faith and zoning, Editorial, The Record (Nov. 3, 2006):

  The Albanian group first filed a development application in late 2002 and has since gone through numerous Planning Board hearings. Then suddenly this spring the township announced it would try to buy the site through eminent domain...

Wayne can argue that the township does not have bias. It also does not have an Albanian mosque.

Read the editorial here


Federal Court issues injunction preventing the taking of religious property (Newark, N.J.): On November 1, 2006, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granted a preliminary injunction protecting mosque property from eminent domain proceedings. Judge Peter G. Sheridan ordered the Township of Wayne, N.J. to cease efforts to seize the AlbanianAssociated Fund's 11-acre site on November 1, 2006.

  "Critically important constitutional rights are at stake here," said Roman P. Storzer, attorney for AAF, "Protecting open space is a laudable goal, but it should not be used as a pretense for appeasing local hostility to a minority group."

Press release available here. The Record story available here.



Storzer and Greene Defend Jewish Sabbath Observance

On October 19, Storzer & Greene filed a response defending the Ben Gilman Medical and Dental Clinic in Spring Valley, NY from a complaint filed in the New York Human Rights Commission by the president of the local NAACP chapter. The complaint alleges that the Clinic discriminates because it closes on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and remains open on Sundays. Read the Press Release here.



United States Department of Justice sides with Bikur Cholim, sues Village of Suffern
On September 26, 2006, the federal government filed a lawsuit against the Village of Suffern for violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The Complaint states:

  Suffern's denial of the variance application substantially burdens the religious exercise of Orthodox Jews who need to visit the sick in Suffern while observing religious proscriptions against driving on the Sabbath and other Holy Days.

In its Complaint, the Department of Justice requests the court to declare that the denial of Storzer & Greene client Bikur Cholim's variance application violates RLUIPA, and prevent the Village from substantially burdening Bikur Cholim's religious exercise.

Mr. Storzer will be appearing in federal court on October 4 to seek a preliminary injunction permitting Bikur Cholim to continue operating.

Suffern Is Sued for Religious Discrimination After Village Rejects an Orthodox Lodging, New York Times (Sept. 27, 2006)

U.S. Sues to Allow N.Y. Sabbath House, New York Times (Sept. 26, 2006).
Also in Forbes, Fox News, Jerusalem Post, New York Sun, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, others.

Suffern accused of discriminating against Jewish group 'on basis of religion, The Journal News (Sept. 27, 2006).

Suffern sued over Sabbath house, Times Herald-Record (Sept. 27, 2006).

U.S. sues Rockland village for denying variance to Orthodox group, Newsday (Sept. 26, 2006).



Federal court rules for Temple in overtime pay case, dismisses lawsuit
On September 22, 2006, federal judge Joseph Bianco dismissed a lawsuit brought by a religious employee of S&G client Hindu Temple Society of North America for various alleged labor violations. The court held:

  If this Article III requirement is not met, then, no matter how interesting or significant the legal issue presented, the Court has no jurisdiction and is not permitted to proceed with the case.

Parameswaran v. Mysorekar, No. 05-CV-3162 (E.D.N.Y. 2006).




   
Storzer & Greene files amicus curiae Brief in Prison Fellowship Ministries appeal
On September 22, 2006, Storzer and Greene, together with of counsel Richard W. Garnett, Lilly Endowment Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, filed a brief on behalf of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights arguing that a federal court erred in engaging in a theological discussion about the relationship between evangelical Christianity and Catholicism:

  We agree entirely with the court’s observation that it lacks “theological expertise” and, like the court below, we endorse without reservation James Madison’s statement that religion is, “for the honor of America, perfectly free and unshackled. The government has no jurisdiction over it.” Under the Constitution of the United States, the institutions of religion and government are separate, not to constrain religion, and not because the Framers feared faith, but in order to protect religion, and to check the ambitions and powers of government. Nothing in this Brief is intended to suggest that the courts of the United States ought not to protect religious freedom by protecting the freedom of believers and of the Church from government interference. But this Court’s consideration of the work of InnerChange and Prison Fellowship Ministries should be undertaken without the taint of the district court’s homebrewed theological analysis of that work as narrow, prejudiced, or anti-Catholic, when in fact its is quite the opposite: open-minded, generous, and ecumenically cooperative.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State v. Prison Fellowship Ministries, App. No. 06-2741 (8th Cir.). Read the district court's decision here



Storzer & Greene files brief in Maryland Court of Appeals protecting religious institutions

As co-counsel with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the firm filed a brief urging reversal of the same-sex marriage decision in Maryland's highest court. The brief argues that the decision below will have profound impact on the employment, housing, public accommodation, and free speech rights of religious institutions.



"God's Work," Colleen DeBaise, SmartMoney (Apr. 18, 2006)

  Religious groups are more likely to run into problems when they look before they leap, says Roman Storzer, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represents religious institutions. "Churches are not as sophisticated as commercial entities," he says. "They're used to preaching to the community, not doing taxes and payroll." He recently represented a Hindu temple in Flushing, N.Y., which set up a canteen to serve food to worshippers. Last summer, a worker at the canteen sued the temple for overtime wages. While the worker ultimately withdrew the suit, it's an example of the obstacles that might come with the territory, he says.

Read the story here.



The First Amendment Center's story on Albanian Associated Fund v. Township of Wayne.



Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hands down resounding RLUIPA victory
In a much-anticipated case involving the right of a religious institution to obtain a land use permit in order to build a place of worship, the Court of Appeals decided on August 1, 2006 that a county cannot deny a CUP to a Sikh organization if that denial would "impose a significantly great restriction or onus upon" its religious exercise. The Court found that this particular denial would in fact do so, based upon its findings that:

  (1) The County's broad reasons given for its tandem denials could easily apply to all future applications by Guru Nanak; and (2) that Guru Nanak readily agreed to every mitigation measure suggested by the Planning Division, but the County, without explanation, found such cooperation insufficient.

As Director of Litigation for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Mr. Storzer drafted its amicus brief supporting the Sikh Society. Several of the arguments proposed in the brief were adopted by the Court of Appeals, including the proposition that RLUIPA makes explicit certain protections already inherent in the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment (including the legal requirement that a denial of a discretionary land use permit must survive strict scrutiny judicial review), and that the denial of a land use permit may be substantially burdensome on religious exercise, even though the initial requirement of such a permit is not.



Muslim Association sues Township of Wayne, N.J. for attempted seizure of its land
On July 17, 2006, the Albanian Associated Fund, which owns property in Wayne Township that it has been attempted to build on for four years, filed suit in federal district court in order to prevent the taking of its property.

 

Media Release, Storzer & Greene/The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (July 17, 2006)

Muslim group sues town over effort to build mosque, Newsday (July 18, 2006)

  "AAF is not asking for special consideration," said one of their lawyers, Roman P. Storzer. "This group is entitled to the same protections of the law as any church or synagogue."

Wayne sued by Muslim group, The West Milford Messenger (July 27, 2006)

Muslim Group Fights for Mosque, The Record (July 19, 2006):

  "The township is trying to accommodate the hostilities of the local residents in their efforts to prevent the mosque from locating here," Storzer said in an interview."

Muslim group sues N.J. town over effort to build mosque, First Amendment Center (July 19, 2006)

Muslim Group Sues Town Over Effort to Build Mosque, WNBC (July 19, 2006)

Mosques Sues Wayne Township (NJ) Over Attempted Land-Grab, Al-Jazeerah (July 19, 2006)

Muslim group sues town over effort to build mosque, WABC-TV (July 18, 2006)



"US: Don't close Shabbat House!" Ynetnews (July 11, 2006):

  Nathan J. Diament, director of the Union's Institute who was involved in working with Congress to have RLUIPA enacted stated that "the purpose of the RLUIPA statute was to ensure that zoning codes could not be a veiled tool for religious discrimination. The fact that under the code the Shabbat House could not be located anywhere in Suffern is the best proof that the local officials want no such facility to exist. To do so is to deny the religious needs of the hospitalized patients and their loved ones. We trust that the court will rule in favor of the plaintiffs."



Numerous Orthodox Jewish organizations support Bikur Cholim in federal court
On July 5, 2006, a brief amicus curiae was filed in support of Storzer & Greene client Bikur Cholim on behalf of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, Agudas Harabonim, Agudath Israel, National Council of Young Israel, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, the Rabbinical Council of America, Torah Umesorah, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. The brief demonstrates that

  The contention made in this case by the Village of Suffern - i.e., that the service performed by the existence of the Shabbos House is merely a "convenience" made available to hospital visitors and is not within the constitutional or statutory definition of "exercise of religion" - is alarming to the Orthodox Jewish community. Hospital visits and Sabbath observance are not matters of "convenience"; they are at the heat of traditional Jewish religious observance.

More information about the case can be found here.



Religious school successfully defends against Title VII lawsuit
On June 7, 2006, the federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a decision dismissing a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by a parochial school teacher based on her dismissal for abortion rights advocacy. Congratulations to the Becket Fund for a hard-won appeal. (Mr. Storzer had been co-counsel in the successful representation of the Ursuline Academy before the District Court.)



Firm defends church against eminent domain action
On May 15, 2006, Storzer & Greene PLLC submitted an appeal brief in defense of their client Faith Temple Church against the Town of Brighton, New York's attempted taking of their property. Also joining in the lawsuit are the following entities, all of whom submitted amicus briefs in support of the proposition that municipalities must pass strict judicial review if taking church property substantially burdens religious exercise:
United States Department of Justice (brief)
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (brief)
American Center for Law and Justice
The firm is co-counsel with Nixon Peabody LLP in Faith Temple's appeal.
April 1, 2013: Storzer & Greene attorneys co-author article on RLUIPA's "Nondiscrimination" provision. Examining 42 U.S.C. 2000cc(b)(2)--which prohibits "government [from] impos[ing] or implement[ing] a land use regulation that discriminates against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination"--the authors argue that the law's protections are needed now more than ever:

 

While there is ample evidence of discrimination—both overt and surreptitious—violative of RLUIPA, some commentators continue to argue that religious groups simply do not face discrimination during the land use regulation process and that stakeholders in such regulation are only concerned with legitimate land use issues. They are plainly wrong. While there is no question that local zoning boards and other regulatory bodies are often motivated by sincere concerns about matters such as traffic, environmental protection, and adherence to building codes, it is also true that such reasons are often used as a façade for invidious discrimination. Also, it is far more frequent that minority faiths and those that are unfamiliar to local residents suffer from such intolerance


Christian Parking, Hindu Parking: Applying Established Civil Rights Principles to RLUIPA's Nondiscrimination Provision, 16 Richmond J. of L. and the Public Interest 295 (Winter 2013)



Richmond, VA. (April 16, 2012): On April 16, Roman P. Storzer joined the Department of Justice's Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination Eric Treene and human rights advocate Qasim Rashid to speak at the University of Richmond's Journal of Law and the Public Interest symposium on RLUIPA. Details about the symposium are available here.



Washington, D.C. (Feb. 10-11, 2012) Roman Storzer served as a judge in the semi-final round for the 2012 GW National Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition, hosted by the George Washington University Law School. This year's problem involved the intersection of religious freedom and copyright law.



New York, NY. (March. 4, 2011): Robert Greene will serve as a judge for the American Bar Association Law Student Division National Appellate Advocacy Competition at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, on March 5, 2011. This year’s problem deals with First Amendment challenges to government regulation of speech. More information about the competition is available here



Los Angeles, Cal. (February 11, 2011): Roman Storzer will speak at “Local Agencies on the Cutting Edge: Emerging Challenges to Local Land Use Authority,” a symposium held at the UCLA School of Law sponsored by the Law School’s Evan Frankel Environmental Law & Policy Program, the Municipal Law Institute of the League of California Cities, UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy and the Environment, and UC Davis California Environmental Law and Policy Center. He will join Deborah Fox of Meyers Nave on the panel discussion “RLUIPA – A Trap For the Unwary.” Information about the symposium, including the program, is available here


Washington, D.C. (Feb. 5, 2011): Roman Storzer joined the George Washington University Law School’s 5th Annual National Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition as a semifinal round judge. This year´s problem deals with the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and is available here. More information about the competition is available here



Defending Religious Liberty in the 21st Century
Storzer & Greene becomes a Cooperating Organization with the PBS God In America series.

Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C. welcomes God in America viewers to our website at www.storzerandgreene.com, which contains information about our work in the modern day defense of religious liberty. The pages located there describe various kinds of government actions that inhibit the rights of people to freely practice their religious faith. Our cases involve the Amish, Native Americans, Buddhists, various Christian denominations, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others. We believe that religious liberty for all is a critical part of our American experience.

One of the major threats to religious liberty today is local governmental attempts to limit religious communities building or improving their facilities through zoning and land use laws. These issues were specifically addressed by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), a federal statute enacted to clarify the rights of religious groups to build churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, religious schools, fellowship halls, social service facilities and more. Many of the stories you will see on these pages deal with our work in this sphere. Both Mr. Storzer and Mr. Greene have been involved in RLUIPA cases since its enactment. You will also find a link here to our writing, conference details, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent report on the 10th Anniversary of RLUIPA.

Also coming soon will be a new website devoted to religious land use issues, which will track developments nationwide.

We see our work as the modern day extension of the efforts of the early American champions of religious liberty, those seen in the God In America seers and others such as WIlliam Penn and Roger Williams. We hope this site helps round out your knowledge of the ongoing efforts to continue the work of the Founders.



New Orleans, La. (Oct. 12, 2010): Robert Greene to speak at theInternational Municipal Lawyers Association's 2010 Annual Conference. The session is titled "The 'Hard Question' of the EstablishmentClause Coupled with a RLUIPA Update." Information about the conference can be found here and the program is available here



Washington, D.C. (Sept. 21, 2010): Roman Storzer joined several other panelists to discuss the occasion of RLUIPA’s 10th anniversary at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s “RLUIPA 10 Years Later,” held in the Rayburn House Office Building at 12:30pm. The organizers of the event write: “President Clinton signed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act into law on September 22, 2000. Fast forward a decade later, we as a society are still debating the meaning of religious freedom in a pluralistic democracy. Most recently, we have seen the American fabric fray around the siting of an Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan, not far from the where the World Trade Center stood.” The program also included:

 

• Opening Remarks by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

• Introduction by David Lachmann, Chief of Staff, House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties

Panel:

• Marci Hamilton, Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Cardozo School of Law

• Douglas Laycock, Armistead M. Dobie Professor of Law and Horace W. Goldsmith Research Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

• Elizabeth Merritt, Deputy General Counsel, National Trust for Historic Preservation

• Marc Stern, Associate General Counsel, American Jewish Committee


More information is available here.

“Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez Speaks at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s RLUIPA Event,” U.S. Department of Justice (Sept. 21, 2010).


Washington, D.C. (Sept. 22, 2010): Read the United States Department of Justice’s ”Report on the Tenth Anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act”

 

As the courts clarify remaining legal issues, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division will continue to fulfill an important role in enforcing RLUIPA, investigating potential violations, bringing lawsuits, participating as amicus in significant cases, providing technical assistance, and educating the public and government officials.


The report highlights cases involving S&G clients (among others) including U.S. v. Suffern, N.Y. and Albanian Associated Fund v. Township of Wayne, N.J.



Feb 1, 2010: S&G Case to be subject of Harvard Pluralism Project documentary. Filming has started on a documentary examining the experience of the Buddhist Education Center of North America in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The City had sought to restrict the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist congregation from conducting its religious practice at its home in southern Virginia Beach. Virginia Wesleyan College Professor Steven Emmanuel interviewed Robert Greene about the litigation and S&G’s experience in advocating for religious liberty on behalf of many faiths including Baptists, Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Moslems, Native Americans and many others.



Nov. 17, 2009: S&G quoted in U.S. News & World Report, “Moves to Seize Mosque Spark Outrage”



New York, N.Y. (Sept. 21-22, 2009): Robert Greene represents the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends at the National Council of the Churches of Christ Board of Governors Meeting.
The National Council of Churches is the organization of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — including 45 million people in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation. It includes many national Baptist organizations as well as the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Moravian Church, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Quakers and many other faith communions. It has been a leading force in ecumenical cooperation in the United States for over half a century.



American Bar Association: Excerpt from "The RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Uses, Zoning, and the Courts.”

 

Although inconsistencies continue to abound in this area of law, a pattern has emerged from the dozens of cases that have made their way to the court system. This is the general rule that in an area of law with few—if any—established practical rules, courts are aware of the equities in cases brought before them and tend to steer the results accordingly. When a church attempts in good faith to resolve legitimate municipal interests in its effort to build a place of worship, its claims are generally favored, especially when such attempts are unreasonably rebuffed by the municipality.


ABA Book Briefs Blog, July 14, 2009.



Nashville, Tennessee (April 16 & 17, 2009): S&G Provides RLUIPA Training to Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

 

“A proactive approach to defending civil rights is clearly preferable to litigation,” said attorney Roman Storzer. “Local governments need the tools to deal with potentially controversial religious land uses in a manner that avoids discrimination and undue burden.”


Read S&G’s media release here, the United States Department of Justice’s description of the related case and settlement, the consent decree, and more information



Princeton, N.J. (April 13, 2009): Robert Greene Speaks at Princeton Theological Seminary.

 

S&G principal Robert Greene delivered a lecture on the topic of the Church and State in the United States this evening to students at Princeton Theological Seminary. The talk addressed the religious origins of the free exercise of religion in the colonial era, discussing the theories of Roger Williams, William Penn and other colonial religious leaders on the religious grounds for opposing all attempts to compel religious conformity.

It also discussed the current state of the law of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution, focusing on the various difficulties and opportunities in raising claims that government regulation substantially burdens religious exercise.




RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Uses, Zoning, and the Courts available for pre-order.

From the American Bar Association: “This book provides both a general background of RLUIPA so that the reader understands the context in which RLUIPA was passed by Congress in 2000, as well as a very practical discussion about RLUIPA litigation from the perspective of the church (religious land use applicant) and the
perspective of the community. Attorneys as well as planners and religious land use applicants will benefit from reading this book, which offers information and advice on initiating a RLUIPA lawsuit, as well as defending a RLUIPA lawsuit.”

Roman Storzer drafted a chapter of the book titled “The Perspective of the Religious Land Use Applicant.” More information about the book is available here.



Roman Storzer will join other religious freedom experts as a judge in the 2009 National Religious Freedom Moot Court on February 6.

 

This year's problem will deal with issues regarding the employment decisions of religious groups in relation to state civil rights laws. The competition issues will center on the "ministerial exception" to employment discrimination laws, and free exercise issues relating to sexual orientation discrimination laws.


More information available here




RLUIPA Book to be published in April 2009: RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Use, Zoning and the Courts, co-published by the American Bar Association and the American Planning Association, is due to be released in mid-April. Roman Storzer joins other authors in presenting a chapter on the history, theory, practical application and problems in current religious land use litigation.



Robert Greene Visits Capitol Hill on Behalf of Quaker Committee. On November 13, 2008, Robert Greene visited Senatorial and Congressional offices today on behalf of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Quaker public affairs lobby. Mr. Greene is a member of the General Committee of FCNL, representing the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. He is also a representative to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, an organization of clergy and religious leaders of all faiths.



Roman Storzer will be speaking at the Property Rights Foundation of America’s twelfth annual National Conference on Private Property Rights. Mr. Storzer will join speakers from the Institute for Justice, the National Center for Public Policy Research and the Cato Institute, among others, and will be addressing historic preservation regulations impacting religious institutions. The conference is being held on October 18, 2008 in Albany, N.Y. More information available here



S&G is pleased to welcome its newest attorney, Stuart Werbin.



Robert Greene will join Prof. Marci Hamilton and several others in addressing the New Jersey State League of Municipalities on November 19, 2008. The panel discussion, “The Federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) – Challenges Faced by Local Government,” is part of the NJLM’s 93rd Annual Conference.



Roman Storzer will participate as a judge in the 2008 National Religious Freedom Moot Court held at George Washington University on February 22-23, 2008.

He will join Judges Sutton (6th Circuit) and O'Scannlain (9th Circuit), Eric W. Treene, special counsel for religious discrimination at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and others at this competition. This year’s topic focuses on current controversies involving the military chaplaincy and implicating the Religion Clauses and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. More information available here


Robert Greene named to National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Storzer & Greene partner Robert L. Greene has been named to serve as the representative of the Princeton Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). NRCAT was founded in 2006 and consists of representatives from the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, Evangelical Christian, Quaker, Unitarian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities. NRCAT member organizations include denominations and faith groups, national religious organizations, regional religious organizations, and individual church congregations. Its goal is to ensure that the United States does not engage in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of anyone, without exception.



Robert Greene to speak on exercise of eminent domain over church property

Storzer & Greene partner Robert L. Greene will be featured as a speaker at the Lorman Education seminar on Eminent Domain April 17, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency in North Brunswick New Jersey. The seminar is intended for attorneys, developers and all sorts of land use professionals. Mr. Greene will speak about S&G's role in several important cases challenging the right of government to use eminent domain laws to take the property of churches and religious organizations. For registration go to www.lorma
n.com



Cost of litigation, Editorial, Journal News (Aug. 8, 2007):

  A [Prof. Marci] Hamilton-Storzer face-off has occurred many times before, in the courts and in spirited law school and American Bar Association debates. They have had a little point-counterpoint on this page, with subsequent Community View columns on the Pomona issue. On the whole, court cases have tipped overwhelmingly to Storzer's clients.



Robert Greene to speak to New Jersey bar on religion and land use June 20, 2007, Robert L. Greene will speak today at the New Jersey Bar's Law Center, 1 Constitution Square in New Brunswick, New Jersey at a New Jersey Institutive of Continuing Legal Education seminar on Religion and Land Use. Mr. Greene will be speaking on federal constitutional protections of church and religious organization land use and RLUIPA. Other presentations will focus on state law issues. Among the subjects on the agenda are several cases that Storzer & Greene have been involved in.

NICOLE is a joint project of the New Jersey Bar Association, Rutgers University and Seton Hall University. Mr. Greene is a former adjunct faculty member of Seton Hall's Law School.



On May 18, 2007, Roman Storzer addressed the American Bar Association's Section of State and Local Government Law at its annual Spring Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The session, titled "Church, State and Dirt: RLUIPA and Land Use in 2007 also included speakers Marci Hamilton, Cardozo Law School, and Daniel P. Dalton, Tomkiw Dalton, Detroit, Michigan.

 

Mr. Storzer believes there were and continue to be very good reasons behind the adoption of RLUIPA. He does not believe that RLUIPA gives religious organizations a “blank check” to engage in activities free of land regulation, noting that courts have consistently indicated RLUIPA is not a “free pass.” Storzer believes RLUIPA needs to be available where facts demonstrate a community has attempted improperly to use its zoning powers to keep a religious organization with different practices and lifestyles out of a community.


Jay T. Squires, ”RLUIPA Sparks Spirited Debate in San Juan”



November RLUIPA Conference
Mr. Storzer will join other speakers at the Conference of Village Trustees' RLUIPA conference in Montebello, N.Y. on November 9.



Mr. Storzer speaks at Land Use Institute conference
On May 12, 2006, Mr. Storzer addressed a conference sponsored by the Maryland State Bar, MICPEL, the University of Maryland School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law on the topic of religious land use.


"The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000: A Constitutional Response to Unconstitutional Zoning Practices,"
9 Geo. Mason L.Rev. 929, 945 (2001), co-authored by Roman Storzer and Anthony R. Picarello, Jr.



Wall Street Journal's Startup Journal, Apr. 25, 2006
Roman Storzer was quoted in a
Start Up Journal article about religious organizations engaging in commercial transactions.