Catholic Diocese’s RLUIPA and First Amendment Claims Over Proposed Cemetery Allowed to Proceed: Part 7, §1983 Retaliation Claim

This is the seventh 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 retaliation claim brought under §1983. 

After the RLUIPA claims, third issue the Court addressed was the Diocese’s claim that the defendants conduct since 2003 was taken is retaliation for the Diocese’s state lawsuit and the current §1983 action. Specifically, the Diocese alleged that the Village had intentionally delayed the permit applications and SEQRA process and attempted to increase the Diocese’s costs through unreasonable demands to conduct various studies and testing. Though the parties contest the sufficiency and weight of the evidence, the Court found there was testimony in the depositions that did in fact suggest a link between the lawsuit and application process. Ultimately, the Court found that given “the temporal nexus of seven months, coupled with the surrounding circumstances, e.g., the length and expense of the QOP permitting process and the extensive restrictions in the Resolution, which seemingly go beyond the POW Law's requirements and are arguably gratuitous,” the evidence could support a finding of retaliation. The Court thus dismissed the Defendants motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim. The Court also notes an as-applied challenge similarly survives due to the questions of material fact regarding actual animus.

The next post in this series will look at the remaining motions for summary judgment and final rulings.

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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