Looking back over 2012, we have been blessed to play a significant role in protecting our First Amendment right to share the Gospel, in combating hostility toward Christianity, and defending the will of voters. For example:
- We have continued the fight to protect the right of churches to build and expand their ministry in the Temecula Valley Wine Country against politically powerful vintners.
- We worked aggressively to defend students’ rights to express their religion in school and developed a booklet to educate parents, teachers, and students of their rights and warn them of the perils in California public schools (available on our website).
- We continued to fight for the protection of traditional marriage through the defense of voter-backed Proposition 8 in California. Now, this case is at the Supreme Court, where the justices will decide whether to respect the will of voters.
But, this year is our 7 YEAR MARKER – we have been pursuing our goals for seven years! Now, because of the critical times in our culture, we must refine our goals and litigate with greater precision in order to preserve our liberty to share the Gospel. Here’s our strategy:
- Plan: We will aggressively increase our caseload with more tactical cases that are directly related and central to our purpose: Defending the first amendment right to spread the Christian Gospel.
- Pursue: (a) We will pursue opportunities to challenge governmental hostility toward Christianity like the efforts to remove Christian symbols from public display; and (b) We will strategically continue to pursue cases that will challenge unlawful land use and building restrictions that are burdening and censoring churches.
You can help us right now to continue defending religious liberty and to pursue our strategy for 2013. In order to litigate additional cases, we need to bring in $2,500 in new monthly donations by the New Year. Please help us reach this goal by December 31st. Whatever amount you can contribute on a monthly basis will greatly help us to take on new cases to preserve our liberty to share the Gospel. Simply use the enclosed envelope and indicate your monthly gift pledge, or go online at www.faith-freedom.com/7-year-marker-press-on.
Thank you for supporting our mission!
Case Update: Religious Land Use WIN for Washington, D.C. Church
Our client, the Fishermen of Man Church located in Washington, D.C., was recently faced with the potential of being designated a historic landmark by a local government agency, the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Though this may sound like a benefit to the church, this landmark designation would have placed burdensome restrictions on the church and its activities.
For example, the church had planned to make some much-needed improvements, including placing an attractive sign on the building to better indicate that it is, in fact, a church. Since it is located in the midst of a commercial district, this signage is a necessity to grow church membership. If it were called a landmark, the church would experience crippling delays and costs while the HPRB and local government carried out the landmark designation, and they would be highly restricted from carrying out their planned improvements.
In addition to these burdens, there is also a moral question surrounding the landmark designation. In the past, the church location was used as a community movie theater, and – in a divisive time in our nation’s history – it was designated as a “whites only” movie theater. For the congregation of the Fishermen of Man church, which is predominately African-American, this landmark designation was extremely offensive.
We represented the church at no cost and worked with the church’s local attorney in preparation for the hearing. We also sent a demand letter to the HPRB, explaining that the landmark designation they planned for the Fishermen of Man building would violate RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institution
alized Persons Act, which prevents government bodies from applying regulations to religious institutions that would place a substantial burden on religious land use or regulations that are inequitably applied against religious institutions. The HPRB then realized the church’s rights under RLUIPA and decided against the landmark designation. Victory for the church!
This case represents the strategic opportunities we plan to pursue in the future used to ensure the spread of the Gospel. There are several more churches in the D.C. area alone that are facing the threat of burdensome landmark designations that threaten their very existence. In many cases, these regulations censor churches and unreasonably control a church’s daily operations causing many churches to flee to the suburbs. We want to defend these churches’ right to not just exist, but to continue to spread the Gospel of Christ in our Nation’s capital!
We ask that you consider pledging a monthly gift so that we can pursue more cases and victories like this one!
God bless you,
Associate General Counsel