Foundation For Moral Law Brings Federal Suit Against City Of Dothan For Violating Church Rights

Montgomery, AL — On Friday, October 13, the Foundation for Moral Law (“the Foundation”) filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of New Life in Jesus Ministries (“New Life”), a church in Dothan, AL, which was denied its right guaranteed by the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) to assemble and worship in its building. In this case, the Foundation is partnering with attorneys John Mauck and Noel Sterett of Mauck and Baker, LLC, in Chicago. Mauck testified at the congressional hearings that led to the enactment of RLUIPA.  

After purchasing its property in August 2017, the church was informed that it had to apply for a special exception because of how the property was zoned. The church’s application was denied, even though another church meets in the same zone only 500 feet away from New Life’s property. Dothan’s zoning code does not allow religious organizations to use their property by right anywhere within the city, even though it allows many secular organizations to use their property by right within city limits.

“Congress designed RLUIPA to guarantee that religious organizations may use their property on equal terms as secular organizations. This is a pretty clear violation of RLUIPA’s guarantee of equal treatment,” said Matthew Clark, the Foundation’s staff attorney representing New Life in Jesus Ministries.

“The right to acknowledge God and worship Him according to the dictates of our conscience is our first freedom,” said Kayla Moore, the President of the Foundation for Moral Law. “The right of churches to use their property to worship God is protected by federal law; it does not depend on the grace of the zoning board,” she added.

Noel Sterett also said, “This is a very straightforward case but unfortunately not all that uncommon. Many zoning codes were never changed to comply with the federal law and fix this sort of unequal treatment. We hope the city will take note and immediately agree to let this church meet.”  

The Foundation for Moral Law is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the strict construction of the Constitution according to the intent of the Framers and to the right to acknowledge God in the public arena.


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