Federal Religious Discrimination Suit Filed Against Dixmoor, Ill.
August 30, 2010
DIXMOOR, Ill., (christiansunite.com) -- Today, the Power of Praise Worship Center Church (PPWC) filed a lawsuit against the Village of Dixmoor for violating a Federal land use law. The case has been assigned to Federal Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan The Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) provides that no government shall impose a land use regulation that unreasonably burdens religious assemblies. The suit alleges that Dixmoor's Code Enforcement Officer, Fred Cody, took matters into his own hands when he forced the church out of the building they were renting, citing that the church was in an area not zoned for religious use. This was after Dixmoor's Village Board of Trustees agreed that PPWC could lawfully use a facility it rented.
Seeking to clarify how Dixmoor could justify removing the church, PPWC and its attorneys repeatedly asked for a complete copy of Dixmoor's zoning code, which the village refused to provide. The suit charges both a violation of RLUIPA and refusing to comply with four Freedom of Information Act requests for copies of the code. PPWC filed the suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The rented property is located at 14323 Western Avenue in Dixmoor.
"Dixmoor has been playing a 'shell game' with the church, as it has ignored or dodged four Freedom of Information requests for its zoning code," said the church's attorney, John Mauck, partner at Mauck & Baker LLC. "For a village to hide its zoning code would be like a town hiding the name of its mayor or another piece of basic public information."
"We know this community is hurting and we want to bring hope to the hopeless by honoring Jesus, serving the people in Dixmoor and sharing God's love," said Pastor Nathaniel Holmes. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 30 percent of Dixmoor's population is below the poverty line. Holmes continued, "When we started using the facility, we had 50 members, and now we're down to six because we had our house of worship ripped out from under us. We expect Dixmoor's leadership to come clean and play by the rules of open government and respect the U.S. Constitution and Federal laws that prevent religious discrimination."
"Is Dixmoor the new Wild West where one person takes the law into his hands and can shoot down a church?" said Mauck. "The village leadership made it clear that they wanted this church, but their Code Enforcement Officer has decided to operate by secret laws."
PPWC is seeking a temporary restraining order to allow it to resume operating the church and prevent the Village of Dixmoor from threatening to remove PPWC from its rental property. In addition, the church is seeking financial damage for the time each member or former member has been denied their Free Exercise of Religion, and other unnecessary costs the Village has inflicted on the church.
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.