Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa, was looking for a home for its daughter congregation, Living Water Community Church.
The local Ford dealership had an empty building that it wanted to sell. Located along a busy highway, the building was ideal for a community-oriented church. But the city wanted a retail business rather than a tax-exempt church.
After two failed attempts by the church to get the purchase approved, church members discovered and cited the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). RLUIPA protects churches from discrimination in land-use cases involving tax-exempt religious institutions.
“We were amazed that this [law] existed, “ said Calvary member Gary Vande Vegt. When informed of the statute, all of the parties contacted their own legal counsel and peacefully agreed that Living Water Community Church could purchase the abandoned building and establish a new congregation.