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After Five-Year Court Battle, Becket Fund Wins California Church Right to Worship on its Property

Another Civil Rights Victory Notched by Noted Public Interest Law Firm


Contact: Jennifer Sheran, 678-990-9032, x101, 404/642-7845 cell, jsheran@maximusmg.com; Tony Tortorici, 678-990-9032, x104, 404/520-8853 cell, ttortorici@maximusmg.com


LAKE ELSINORE, Calif., Aug. 23 /Christian Newswire/ -- Civil rights lawyers representing a California store-front church today are celebrating a major victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. After a bitter five-year court battle, the Elsinore Christian Center now has the right to base its burgeoning church on property it owns in downtown Lake Elsinore.


The Ninth Circuit's decision yesterday is the latest in an unbroken string of land use victories that The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has won for religious organizations across the country. The Becket Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm based in Washington, D.C. that protects the free public expression of all religious traditions.


Yesterday’s decision overturned the only judge in the country to rule that a major federal civil rights law protecting churches was unconstitutional. The civil rights law, called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (or RLUIPA), forces cities and counties to take in account when making zoning decisions the ability of churches and their members to worship. The Becket Fund, which was instrumental in seeing RLUIPA passed through Congress, is also the nation's most experienced and successful law firm in winning RLUIPA cases. (More information on RLUIPA is available at www.rluipa.org.)


"We have never lost a RLUIPA case and plan to keep on suing until cities and counties learn to respect churches' civil rights," said Kevin J. Hasson, founder and president of The Becket Fund. "In fact, we recently prevailed in a similar case in the Ninth Circuit for a Sikh congregation in Yuba City, Calif. and we are optimistic about the upcoming decision in Redwood Christian Schools vs. the County of Alameda, also in California."


Hasson praised the Ninth Circuit for its decisions regarding RLUIPA, which he called "an important federal law that helps protect the rights of religions of all kinds to practice their faiths in their own way, on their own property."