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Civil Liberties for Urban Believers v. City of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

January 17, 2003, Argued ; August 20, 2003, Decided

No. 01-4030


 [*755]  BAUER, Circuit Judge. Appellants, an association of Chicago-area churches and five individual member churches thereof, appeal from the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Appellee, the City of Chicago, on Appellants' claims challenging the Chicago Zoning Ordinance ("CZO"), 17 MUNICIPAL CODE OF CHICAGO, ILL., §§ 1-11, under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 UNITED STATES CODE § 2000cc et seq., and the United States Constitution. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the decision of the district court.


The CZO broadly divides the city into R, B, C, and M zones for residential, business, commercial, and manufacturing uses, respectively. Each zone, in turn, is subdivided into numbered districts and subdistricts. A majority of Chicago land available for development is zoned R. The CZO's stated purposes include the following: (i) "to promote and to protect [**2]  the public health, safety, morals, comfort, convenience, and the general welfare of the people," and (ii) "to protect the character and maintain the stability for residential, business, commercial, and manufacturing areas within the City, and to promote the orderly and beneficial development of such areas." See 17 MUN. CODE CHI. § 2 (1), (3) (2001). Churches are permitted uses as of right in all R zones, but are termed Variations in the Nature of Special Uses ("Special Use") in all B zones as well as C1, C2, C3, and C5 districts. All Special Uses, whether of a religious or nonreligious nature, require approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals ("ZBA") following a public hearing. See id. §§ 7.3-1(4), 8.4, 9.4, & 11.10. Special Use approval is expressly conditioned upon the design, location, and operation of the proposed use consistent with the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, and the proposed use must not substantially injure the value of neighboring property. See id. § 11.10-4. Factoring such expenses as application, title search, and legal fees, as well as appraisal and neighbor notification  [*756]  costs, the aggregate cost of obtaining Special Use approval approaches [**3]  $ 5000. Before a church may locate in a C4 district or an M zone, the Chicago City Council must vote in favor of a Map Amendment, effectively rezoning the targeted parcel. See id. §§ 9.4-4, 10, & 11.9.Development for church use of land consisting of two or more acres (necessary for congregations exceeding roughly 500 members) requires approval by City Council vote of a Planned Development. See id. § 11.11-1(a) & 11.11-3.

Civil Liberties for Urban Believers ("CLUB") is an unincorporated association of 40 to 50 Chicago-area religious or not-for-profit Illinois corporations ranging in size from 15 to 15,000 congregants. Five of these individual member churches 1 joined CLUB as plaintiffs in an action challenging the validity of the CZO. The district court summarized as follows the encounters of the five individual plaintiff churches with Chicago's zoning framework as alleged in Appellants' complaint:

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342 F.3d 752 *; 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 17046 **


Subsequent History: Rehearing, en banc, denied by Civil Liberties for Urban Believers, Christ Ctr. v. City of Chicago, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 24176 (7th Cir. Ill., Nov. 26, 2003)

US Supreme Court certiorari denied by, Motion granted by CIVIL LIBERTIES, ETC., ET AL. v. CHICAGO, IL, ET AL., 2004 U.S. LEXIS 4152 (U.S., June 7, 2004)

Prior History:  [**1]  Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 94 C 6151. William J. Hibbler, Judge.

C.L.U.B. v. City of Chicago, 157 F. Supp. 2d 903, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3791 (N.D. Ill., 2001)

Disposition: Affirmed.


churches, zoning, religious, exercise of religion, regulation, substantial burden, assembly, ordinance, special use permit, land use, district court, religion, nonreligious, rezoning, locate, exemptions, zoning ordinance, commercial zone, storefront, manufacturing, districts, suitable, Congregation, restrictions, lodges, rights, Urban, summary judgment, Believers, neighbors

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