Saint Benedict Center in the News

[The following is a press release of the Alliance Defense Fund.]

NH church receives more than $1.1 million over unconstitutional zoning restrictions

ADF-allied attorney secures one of largest zoning settlements in U.S. history from town of Richmond officials who called church’s moral positions ‘abhorrent’

RICHMOND, N.H. — Friday, June 25, 2010 — An Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney has secured a $1.15 million settlement on behalf of Saint Benedict Center of Richmond in a lawsuit over the town’s unconstitutional zoning restrictions. The center contended officials singled it out for discrimination after certain officials expressed their view that the church’s moral positions on matters such as abortion and homosexual behavior are “abhorrent.”

The settlement payment–coming after two state court orders in favor of the church–marks one of the largest settlements in U.S. history involving the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal law that protects churches from unequal treatment in land use disputes with local governments.

“Churches shouldn’t be singled out for discrimination and penalized by a city’s zoning restrictions because of their religious viewpoint,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Doug Napier.  “It was right that  Saint Benedict Center was compensated for years of unconstitutional restrictions that made it impossible to finish the construction of its church and school building.”

In enacting RLUIPA, Congress stated, “The right to assemble for worship is at the very core of the free exercise of religion. Churches and synagogues cannot function without physical space adequate to their needs and consistent with their theological requirements. The right to build, buy, or rent such a space is an indispensable adjunct of the core First Amendment right to assemble for religious purposes.”

In June 2007, Saint Benedict Center–a small, traditional Catholic congregation that has operated a monastery, convent, house of worship, and religious school in Richmond since 1989–filed suit against the town of Richmond after the town imposed more than 30 conditions upon SBC’s proposed new church and school building. A court determined in a summary judgment order last October that the conditions made completion of construction impossible and constituted a substantial burden on the church’s religious exercise under RLUIPA. The church noted to the court that the planning board chairman, who drafted several of the conditions, e-mailed other town officials about his disgust for the church’s religious teachings, stating that its stance on abortion, homosexual behavior, pornography, and divorce were “abhorrent.”

After the court issued an order that deferred a ruling on the problematic construction conditions, the town agreed to pay the church $1.15 million in monetary damages and attorneys’ fees, and the town’s board of selectmen agreed to a separate settlement that makes completion of the church and school building possible.

“Disagreement with an organization’s religious or political views should never motivate the government to impose special restrictions upon a church’s building project,” said lead counsel Michael Tierney of Manchester, one of nearly 1,700 attorneys in the ADF alliance. Tierney, who practices with the law firm Wadleigh, Starr and Peters, PLLC, filed and settled Saint Benedict Center v. Town of Richmond in the New Hampshire Superior Court for Cheshire County.

  • Pronunciation guide: Tierney (Teer-nee), Napier (Nuh-peer)

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

  • Thomas Donnelly

    Deo Gratias! Laudetur Jesus Christus! Magnae Matri Dei, Maria Sanctissima, Gratias!

    Doug Napier et Michael Tierney Gratias!

  • Justin

    I’m glad you guys have folks like the ADF to help fight for you. I think the future of the Church, at least in the short term, will reside in small close knit traditional communities such as the SBC. It’s nice to see folks fighting for it.

  • Paul & Karen Kasprzak

    What wonderful news!!!!!!!!

  • What a GIFT on the Feast of the great St. John the Baptist!
    Can we borrow $10.00?
    Love and hugs to all!!
    Phyllis

  • Phyllis, I’ll loan you $20, and on very generous terms!

  • Gary Ignatius Gale

    Alleluia! The best part reads, “…one of the largest settlements in U.S. history involving …RLUIPA”
    Next question, Does this count as a miracle?

  • Rick DeLano

    Bravo Brother Andre Marie! This is the GREAT news, and is a tremendous vindication of the leadership of your Center under both you and your beloved predecessor. May God grant you now to move out and save souls! Hope to see you out here in the land of fruits and nuts again soon…..

  • ben joyce

    This is very encouraging.

    Was Br. Francis pulling strings?

    I’ll do stations of the Cross for thanksgiving (promise)

  • Wonderful news! This is a big step toward the conversion of America.

  • Ed

    Great News!!!!!! Now you can build the Center as you would like, I doubt those planning commissioners will be bothering you again. DEO GRATIAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!