Jesus Christ is the Answer v. Baltimore County, Maryland

PUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 18-1450 JESUS CHRIST IS THE ANSWER MINISTRIES, INC.; REV. LUCY WARE, Plaintiffs − Appellants, v. BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND; BOARD OF APPEALS OF BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND, Defendants – Appellees. ------------------------------ UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Amicus Supporting Appellants. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. Richard D. Bennett, District Judge. (1:17-cv-03010-RDB) Argued: October 31, 2018 Decided: February 7, 2019 Before NIEMEYER, AGEE, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges. Vacated and remanded by published opinion. Judge Diaz wrote the opinion, in which Judge Niemeyer and Judge Agee joined. ARGUED: Roman P. Storzer, STORZER & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Washington, D.C., for Appellants. James Joseph Nolan, Jr., Paul M. Mayhew, BALTIMORE COUNTY OFFICE OF LAW, Towson, Maryland, for Appellees. John Matthew Gore, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Amicus United States of America. ON BRIEF: Sieglinde K. Rath, STORZER & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Washington, D.C.; Lawrence E. Schmidt, SMITH GILDEA & SCHMIDT LLC, Towson, Maryland, for Appellants. Michael E. Field, County Attorney, R. Brady Locher, Assistant County Attorney, BALTIMORE COUNTY OFFICE OF LAW, Towson, Maryland, for Appellees. Tovah R. Calderon, Katherine E. Lamm, Appellate Section, Civil Rights Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Amicus United States of America. 2 DIAZ, Circuit Judge: Jesus Christ Is the Answer Ministries, Inc. (the “Church”) and Reverend Lucy Ware appeal the dismissal of their claims against Baltimore County and the Board of Appeals of Baltimore County. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ suit for failure to state a claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., the Free Exercise Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and Article 36 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. For the reasons that follow, we vacate and remand for further proceedings. I. A. Jesus Christ is the Answer Ministries, Inc. is a nondenominational Christian church founded in Baltimore in 1997 by Reverend Lucy Ware. 1 The Church describes itself as evangelical and multicultural. It has associated churches in Kenya and the Seychelles, and many of the Church’s congregants were born in Africa. Reverend Ware was born in Kenya, where she was active in her family church until moving to the United States. The Church has struggled to secure an adequate house of worship, and this has impeded its religious mission. This lawsuit arises from Ware’s unsuccessful efforts to 1 Our recitation of the facts is based on the allegations in Plaintiffs’ complaint, which we accept as true at the motion to dismiss stage. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). 3 obtain County approval to operate a church on property that she purchased for that purpose in 2012 (the “Property”). The Property consists of 1.2 acres of land with a building previously used as a dwelling. It is zoned under the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations (“BCZR”) as “Density Residential 3.5.” In this zone, churches are permitted as of right subject to certain conditions, ...

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