Catholic Diocese’s RLUIPA and First Amendment Claims Over Proposed Cemetery Allowed to Proceed: Part 3, Federal Litigation and Initial Motions

This is the third post in our series looking at the long-running dispute between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center and the Village of Old Westbury over the Diocese’s proposed cemetery. Today’s post focuses on the commencement of federal litigation and the initial motions following several years of permitting and environmental reviews of the Diocese’s proposed cemetery.

On November 30, 2009, the Diocese commenced an action in the District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the Village, Board, and Consultants (“Defendants”) asserting violations under the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq. ("RLUIPA"), the United States Constitution, and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986 in the application by the Defendants of SEQRA and the POW law to the Diocese’s proposal.

Less than a year after the commencement of the lawsuit, in June of 2010, the Board approved the proposed cemetery. This approval was subject to a multitude of restrictions and conditions, however, the most onerous of which was a mandate that the Diocese receive renewal of the authorization every five years, during which time the conditions could be modified or the authorization revoked entirely. Due to the conflict over these conditions, to date ground has not been broken on the cemetery.

The federal suit began with 16 months of motions. These led to the dismissal of all claims based upon actions taken before or during the state court proceedings, the Diocese amending its complaint and filing a supplemental complaint, and the defendants submitting their amended answer. There was also a limited amount of discovery. This brings us to the Court’s most recent ruling on the respective parties’ motions and cross-motions for summary judgment, issued September 3, 2015.

The next post in this series will look at the first issue, the facial constitutionality of the POW Law.

The case is The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, v. The Incorporated Village Of Old Westbury, 2015 WL 5178126 (E.D.N.Y.)

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