Church sues community to construct new facility
8/18/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
(UMNS)-Vision United Methodist Church, a predominantly Korean-American
congregation, has filed a $5 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court
alleging the Village of Long Grove, Ill. has "maliciously" worked to
stop development of a new church.
The congregation purchased 27
acres of unincorporated land in Lake County three years ago for the
purpose of relocating and building a worship facility. The property is
located at the corner of Gilmer (Route 83) and North Kruger roads. The
congregation currently shares a facility with another United Methodist
Justification for the suit is based on the First and 14th
Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Religious Land Use
and Institutional Persons Act of 2000. One provision of the act
prohibits burdensome land-use restrictions on houses of worship.
120-member congregation has "been rebuffed and rejected at every point
by the Village of Long Grove to build a church," said John Mauck, an
attorney specializing in religious law who is representing the church.
Village of Long Grove describes itself as "an oasis that the rapid
advance of urban sprawl has not penetrated," according to its Web site.
It goes on to say that "a cherished feature of Long Grove is the privacy
its residents enjoy. This is due to rural zoning and emphasis on the
retention of natural vegetation on both public and private property
alike, which ordinances zealously protect."
Mauck said, at the
time the property was purchased, the church sought permission to build a
new facility and was denied. At that time, the municipality refused to
annex the church-owned property. When the church sought permission from
the county, the village then forcibly annexed the property by buying up
land around the property, thus preventing the county from granting
permission to build a church, he said.
"The church, showing great Christian patience, reapplied to the village and was turned down a third time," Mauck said.
have followed up to their every demand, and they have denied us," said
Han Cho, a member of the congregation and chairman of the church's
building committee. "The lawsuit is our last choice."
"It is the
Korean church's tradition to establish churches in order to exhibit a
Christian culture," Cho said. He pointed out that the area has no Korean
United Methodist churches.
Mauck described Long Grove Village as
a municipality that prides themselves on very tight zoning control and
very low density. It is largely a residential area of upper-income
homes. "The proposed church would be the first non-Caucasian church in
the area," he said.
The Northern Illinois Annual Conference of
the United Methodist Church is considering joining in the lawsuit to
show support for this local church, said Sam Witwer, conference
"The conference is greatly concerned about the
violation of this local church's rights in attempting to relocate and
construct a church," he added.
Mauck said it very encouraging
that the church at the conference level is considering joining the suit
to stand behind this local church.
"They are going out there and fighting for everybody," he said.
"Long Grove is the giant Goliath trying to squash young David (and)
David has had enough," said Mauck. "This is one of the most malicious,
mean-spirited, and systematic attacks on a church that I have ever seen
by a government. America belongs to Americans, not to elitists who
distain the Constitution."
The manager of Long Grove Village, David Lothspeich, said he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and was unable to comment.
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