Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

New Website to Serve as Preeminent Religious Land Use and Property Law Resource

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 10, 2010

ROYAL OAK, Mich., March 9 /Christian Newswire/ — Attorney Daniel P. Dalton, one of the nation’s leading experts in religious land use law, today announced the launch of AttorneysforLandUse.com, a new online resource offering valuable information and advice pertaining to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, also known as RLUIPA. Dalton is co-founder of Royal Oak, Mich.-based Tomkiw Dalton plc, where he leads a team of expert land use attorneys.

Located at http://www.AttorneysforLandUse.com, the new site is the first of its kind to focus specifically as a resource for leaders of religious institutions and others affected by church property disputes and other cases pertaining to church law. It features a history of RLUIPA, an archive of religious land use cases and a blog that will offer Dalton’s unique insights and perspectives. Blog entries will address such issues as eminent domain, property laws, religious freedom, church zoning and other topics pertaining to zoning appeals and land use.

In 2009, while representing the House Where Jesus Shines in a case against the city of Bellmead, Texas, Dalton secured a $550,000 settlement on the day of trial, the largest RLUIPA settlement in Texas to date. Previously, Dalton won a landmark case in Carlinville, Ill., securing the rights to a former Wal-Mart building Carlinville Southern Baptist Church had purchased and also secured a cash settlement. He has done the same for several houses of worship in Michigan and many other states. All of the cases centered around the municipalities’ desire to drive religious entities out of a community with the hope of having tax-paying entities take over existing buildings, a clear violation of RLUIPA.

He is a chapter author of the newly published book “RLUIPA Reader: Religious Uses, Zoning and the Courts,” co-edited by Michael Giaimo and Lora Lucero. The book offers general background about RLUIPA and a practical discussion about RLUIPA litigation from the perspective of both churches and communities.

Dalton dedicates much of his practice to representing religious institutions in RLUIPA cases, acting both as general counsel and offering special litigation. In his own words, “RLUIPA is the great equalizer in land use law; it truly levels the playing field for religious institutions.” Each of Dalton’s RLUIPA cases resulted in the religious institution achieving permission to worship on the disputed parcel of land.

According to legislative history, RLUIPA was passed to protect religious organizations and religious practices from a real or perceived trend of being treated differently than commercial land use. In many cases, this differential treatment is motivated by the fact that most religious land use is tax-exempt.

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