JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville Beach has agreed to stop discriminating against a Florida church after nearly two years of litigation. A legal settlement allows Church of Our Savior to build on its land and requires the city to pay $290,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses the church incurred to defend its constitutionally and legally protected freedoms.
Beginning in March 2013, the city twice denied the church a property permit because city officials said “the church was not consistent with the character of the neighborhood.” The church filed the lawsuit Church of Our Savior v. The City of Jacksonville Beach in October 2013 to hold the city accountable for its unwillingness to follow the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits zoning discrimination on the basis of religion.“A city’s zoning restrictions cannot be used to single out churches for discrimination, so we are pleased at the outcome of this case,” said Daniel P. Dalton of the Michigan firm Dalton & Tomich PLC and one of more than 2,600 private attorneys allied with ADF. “Last month marked 15 years since the passage of RLUIPA, and this case illustrates its continued importance for all Americans. We trust the settlement will demonstrate to other cities around the country that they do a tremendous disservice to taxpayers and to freedom when they attempt to defend actions that violate federal law.”
Dalton represents the church together with ADF-allied attorney Charles L. Stambaugh of the Jacksonville firm Stambaugh & Associates, P.A.
Last November, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that the Act prevents the city from discriminating against the church in these kinds of zoning decisions. The city initially appealed the ruling before reversing course and agreeing to settle.
“Church of Our Savior can finally build its church building and fulfill its mission to serve its community,” said ADF Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco. “We hope other cities considering similar zoning restrictions will take note of this decision and ensure that their codes fully comport with federal law.”
Full media resources available on the Church of Our Savior v. The City of Jacksonville Beach resource page
Sound Bite Attorney Joseph Infranco