On Monday, a federal judge ordered Boulder County to pay more than $1.25 million in attorneys’ fees to Rocky Mountain Christian Church. This was a follow up to the 2008 decision, in which a jury found that Boulder County violated RLUIPA when it denied the church permission to expand its facilities.
“This fee decision shows that cities need to take RLUIPA seriously,” said Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director for the Becket Fund, who helped represent the church.
The Rocky Mountain Christian Church of Niwot, Colorado won a major victory in federal district court in Denver on Wednesday Nov. 19, 2008. The jury found that Boulder County had violated the church’s civil rights, in a case that has been fought over for almost three years.
The church wanted to expand its campus in rural Niwot, five miles northeast of the city of Boulder. Boulder County refused to approve the permits to make the $30 million expansion, citing the rural nature of the area.
The church, along with Rocky Mountain Christian Academy, a private school serving kindergarten through eighth grade students, filed the original zoning permit application in 2004. The County opposed it even though it had approved a similar permit for a secular school nearby.
The church was represented by the Denver law firm of Otten Johnson, Robinson, Neff & Ragonetti with the assistance of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Becket Fund attorneys are the nation’s leading experts on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and its successor, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. Both acts codify constitutional principles derived from the First and Fourteenth Amendments and enjoy broad bipartisan support.
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