Defending Religious Freedom

At Mauck & Baker, we view representing churches, religious institutions, and individuals in the exercise of their religious liberties as kingdom work. We represent houses of worship, religious organizations and individuals for the protection of constitutional rights. Mauck & Baker not only represents Christian congregations or organizations, but we fight for religious freedom for all faiths. Religious freedom is one of the most fundamental human rights, and by protecting the rights of other religions, Mauck & Baker hopes to ensure religious freedom for Christians as well.

It can be very difficult for churches to obtain zoning permission from their city or municipality. Mauck & Baker helps churches grow and will fight for your religious freedom. In addition, our firm can help your church avoid disputes involving employment and volunteering to more effectively build the kingdom of God.

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 A History of Success

After being denied several times to use its newly bought building as a place of worship, the Christian Fellowship Center (CFC) in Canton, New York hired Mauck & Baker to challenge their village's discriminatory zoning code, which allowed almost all nonprofit assembly uses except for religious worship. Shortly after filing suit, the US Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in the case, showing their support of the church and investigation into Canton's unequal treatment. CFC had long been renting from various facilities in Canton in order to hold services each week, but had nowhere to meet on March 31, 2019. As a result, church officials had cancelled service for the date. But on March 29, 2019, in the nick of time, the Court acknowledge the church's religious liberty by ruling in its favor and allowed the congregation to hold worship services there. Read More

After finding Jesus and putting their lifestyle as gang members behind them, Elias, Ruben, and Oscar used their experiences to help others leave gang life. They were able to change futures, ministering to current gang members as well as mentoring at-risk children in schools. Until the Kane County State’s Attorney and the City of Elgin labeled them as active gang members despite evidence that proved otherwise. It took years to get their names cleared, and Mauck & Baker has since appealed to the court to fully acknowledge the violation of their clients' rights.  Read More

The Illinois’ Youth Mental Health Protection Act passed in 2016 prohibited therapists from counseling minors seeking help with unwanted same-sex attraction. This law affected many pastors in Illinois who uphold Biblical teachings that homosexual relationships are sinful, impacting their ability to advise youth struggling with this. As a result, Mauck & Baker founded an association of pastors who wanted to clarify the law to allow religious exceptions. We received a favorable ruling from the court that determined pastors would be exempt from this law. Read More

In 2010, Christian Assembly Rios de Agua Viva, sought to accommodate its growing congregation by contracting to purchase a building that had been vacant since 2008. While the Church’s special use permit was pending, city officials rushed through a zoning code amendment which prohibited churches at that location; intentionally  engaging in religious discrimination. With the help of Mauck & Baker, the church was eventually awarded $459,801 in damages by the city. Read More

In 2017, Nurse Sandra Rojas lost her job when the county’s new administrator decided to merge the Women’s Health unit with pediatrics, requiring her to provide abortion referrals. Due to her religious beliefs she was unable to do so, and as a result was fired from her job of 18 years. Federal law prohibits government officials from compelling pro-life employees to act contrary to their conscience, so Mauck & Baker filed a complaint on behalf of Rojas who was unlawfully discriminated against.

In October 2012, Erik Sung decided to use two rooms in his home in Lake Forest, Ill. for Maum Meditation. Lake County officials determinded Maum was not a religion denying Sung the right to hold meetings in his home. Sung filed lawsuit in May 2013, and Lake County later reversed their decision calling Maum a religion. However, Lake County imposed expensive renovation requirements under the building code that Sung claims are not required.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 or RLUIPA is a federal law protecting the freedom of congregations and religious groups to use land for religious purposes.  Founding partner, John Mauck provided essential counsel in drafting of the law and joined other law professors and religious leaders by presenting his own experience with restrictive zoning regulations before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee in March 1998.

With the lobbying of groups like the Christian Legal Society and other religious organizations, the bill passed unanimously by both the Senate and the House of Representatives as a bipartisan bill on July 27, 2000.  Former President Bill Clinton signed RLUIPA into law on September 22, 2000.  RLUIPA has given churches both equal treatment and inclusion in municipal zoning codes and prevents cities from restricting them from using property for religious assembly. 

Read the full story, here

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