Riverdale Baptist Church v. Anne Arundel County, Md.
02/14/2011: Media coverage of the Riverdale Baptist Church trial
The case was heard by a 10-person jury from Nov. through Nov. 18, 2010. The parties agreed to settle the case on Nov. 18 for $3,250,000. Defendants admitted to substantially burdening the plaintiffs’ religious exercise through the particular application of its laws and policies to plaintiff without a compelling governmental interest and without using the least restrictive means of furthering any such interest, and to unconstitutionally targeting the church by passing legislation aimed only at the church. As part of the settlement, defendants also agreed to allow the church to build a school twice the size of the one originally requested on the property.
“Maryland locality attempts to block Christian school,” Virginia Lawyers Weekly (Feb. 14, 2011).
11/29/2010: Consent judgment filed in Riverdale Baptist Church v. Anne Arundel County case.
In an important case protecting the rights of religious educational institutions to be free from discriminatory and burdensome land use regulation, the County admits liability, allows the Church to build a school for 450 students, and agrees to pay $3,250,000. A copy of the consent judgment is available here.
11/19/2010: Media articles on settlement of religious school litigation between Anne Arundel County, Maryland and S&G client Riverdale Baptist Church
[County Attorney] Hodgson Thursday admitted in court that the county - specifically the administration of then-County Executive Janet S. Owens - targeted the church with restrictive legislation and therefore violated a federal law that prevents local municipalities from blocking specific congregations from building houses of worship. He said the admission was necessary in light of "damaging testimony" from people involved in the Owens administration - perhaps most notably a former aide to Owens, Carl O. Snowden.
“County settles church school lawsuit for $3.25M, Agrees to pay Riverdale Baptist, allow construction of 440-student school,” Scott Daugherty, The Capital.
Attorneys for Anne Arundel County and the Riverdale Baptist Church reached a $3.25 million settlement Thursday in a federal lawsuit claiming that county zoning laws infringed on the church's religious rights. The agreement, reached on the 12th day of lengthy jury trial, clears the way for the church to build a long-planned Baptist school on 57 acres it owns near the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian. It also requires the county to:
- Admit that it violated a federal statute preventing the creation of local zoning laws that impose a "substantial burden" on religious freedoms without compelling cause.
- Pay the plaintiffs $3.25 million in damages and attorney fees.
- Quickly issue the building permits required for the school.
“Anne Arundel settles religious discrimination lawsuit, County will pay church $3.25 million and admit to violating federal laws,” Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun.
11/18/2010: Anne Arundel County agrees to settle Riverdale Baptist Church case for $3.25M
On November 18, 2010, Anne Arundel County agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Storzer & Greene client Riverdale Baptist Church in federal court. The County agreed to pay the Church $3.25 million and permit it to build a 400+ student school on its 57-acre property. The settlement was reached on the 12th day of an extended jury trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Maryland. S&G Media Release can be read here.
04/06/2007: Federal court rules for Baptist school in RLUIPA case
On April 6, 2007, federal judge J. Frederick Motz ruled against Anne Arundel County in its attempt to dismiss the Riverdale Baptist Church's lawsuit, which describes various civil rights violations caused by the County's land use regulations.
The County's history of targeting and ill treatment of Riverdale Baptist Church's attempt to build a school offering a Christian-based education raises serious and important legal questions," said Roman P. Storzer, who argued the case for the Church. "The Church will get its day in court.
More information about the lawsuit can be found here. Proceedings continue.