On Eve of Federal Hearing, Pemberton Changes Tune on its Violation of Religious Freedom
August 19, 2010
PEMBERTON, N.J., (christiansunite.com) -- Amid mounting pressure surrounding its controversial zoning code, the Borough of Pemberton conceded yesterday that the Apostolic Church of Deliverance (ACD) can worship at 207 Hanover Street. This switch in position comes on the eve of a federal hearing and two weeks after the Borough's Planning Board denied the church's use application even though it was aware of the church's federal rights.
At the federal hearing, scheduled for August 17, Pemberton was ordered to justify its prohibition of worship at the property. Last night, Borough officials held an emergency meeting to pass a resolution that recognizes "that under the provisions of RLUIPA [The Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act of 2000] the use is permitted on the Property." A law suit was filed against Pemberton by ACD's attorneys at Mauck & Baker on July 19, 2010.
"With all the discussion around a proposed mosque in Manhattan and the Constitution's guaranteed protection of the religious rights of all Americans, it is regrettable that a federal lawsuit was required for this New Jersey town to acknowledge that its zoning code violated federal laws about religious land use," said John W. Mauck, ACD's attorney from Mauck & Baker, LLC.
The pastor of the church, Reverend Richard Goodwin, added, "We are disappointed that it took a federal lawsuit to get the Borough of Pemberton to agree with the laws that protect religious freedom, but we are thankful to God that we are now allowed to worship, and will begin to do so as soon as we complete our build-out."
More than six months ago, ACD applied for a zoning variance because Pemberton's zoning code prohibited new churches throughout the Borough. The less-than-100 member congregation incurred more than $40,000 in expenses in order to meet Pemberton's application requirements. Now, even with Pemberton's recent concession, officials have indicated that they will need more time to consider "other site plan concerns" it may have with the church's application.
"It is time for the Borough to stop harassing the church and begin repairing the damage that it has done," said Mauck.
About Mauck & Baker
Mauck & Baker LLC is a Chicago-based law firm established in 2001. The firm is nationally known for representing churches and religious institutions. Mauck & Baker has represented religious organizations in real estate transactions, zoning applications, out-of-court settlements, litigation of zoning disputes, litigation of religious liberties and church splits. For more information, visit mauckbaker.com.