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Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas v. City of Mission Woods

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 10, 2019

ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF KANSAS CITY IN KANSAS and ST. ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE CATHOLIC CHURCH, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF MISSION WOODS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Daniel D. Crabtree, United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the court on the motion of plaintiffs Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas (“the Archdiocese”) and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church (“St. Rose Church”) for a permanent injunction (Doc. 87). Defendant City of Mission Woods has filed a Response (Doc. 91). And plaintiffs have filed a Reply (Doc. 95). The court grants plaintiffs' motion for the reasons explained, below.

         I. Facts

         St. Rose Church began holding religious services in Mission Woods in 2013. As the congregation grew, plaintiffs looked to expand. In 2015, plaintiffs acquired a single-family house next to the church's property. Plaintiffs planned to renovate the house, converting it into a meeting house. So, in February 2016, plaintiffs submitted a land use request-i.e., their renovation plan-to defendant's City Plan Commission. The Commission denied plaintiffs' land use request, citing local zoning laws as its reason.

         After defendant denied the request, plaintiffs sued, bringing claims under the Substantial Burden, Equal Terms, Nondiscrimination, and Unreasonable Limitations provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc- 2000cc-5; the First Amendment through 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Section 7 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights; and the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. Doc. 1 at 22-30.[1]

         In November 2018, the case went to trial. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiffs on their RLUIPA Equal Terms claim, concluding that Pembroke Hill School (“Pembroke”) was similarly situated to plaintiffs in its land use request and that defendant had treated Pembroke more favorably than plaintiffs.[2] Doc. 86 at 1. The jury awarded plaintiffs $10, 000 in damages. Id. at 6. But, the jury found for defendant on the rest of plaintiffs' claims-i.e., RLUIPA Substantial Burden and Nondiscrimination claims; First Amendment claims; and Kansas state law claims. Id. at 1-6.

         After trial, plaintiffs filed a Motion for Permanent Injunction (Doc. 87). It asks the court to issue an injunction requiring defendant to approve plaintiffs' 2016 land use application. Approving this land use application would permit plaintiffs to renovate the single-family house into a meeting house.

         II. Legal Standard

         The court may enter a permanent injunction if the moving party proves “(1) actual success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm unless the injunction is issued; (3) the threatened injury outweighs the harm that the injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) the injunction, if issued, will not adversely affect the public interest.” Fisher v. Okla. Health Care Auth., 335 F.3d 1175, 1180 (10th Cir. 2003); Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation v. Wagnon, 476 F.3d 818, 822 (10th Cir. 2007). In fashioning a permanent injunction, the court must tailor the remedy narrowly to conform to the harm shown. Garrison v. Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations, Inc., 287 F.3d 955, 962 (10th Cir. 2002).

         The court applies these four requirements in the “Discussion” portion of this order, which follows.

         III. Discussion

         A. Success on the Merits

         Plaintiffs have achieved an actual success on the merits: At trial, the jury found for plaintiffs on their Equal Terms claim. Doc. 86 at 1. Defendant aims to modulate this outcome, arguing that plaintiffs achieved only “limited success on the merits” because the jury did not find for plaintiffs on their other four claims. Defendant does not cite any case law recognizing its theory that limited success differs from actual success. The court is unpersuaded by defendant's argument. Indeed, other courts have rejected it implicitly. See Rocky Mountain Christian Church v. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, 612 F.Supp.2d 1157, 1160 (D. Colo. 2009) (concluding plaintiff had achieved success on the merits when jury entered favorable verdict on three out of plaintiff's four RLUIPA claims). The court holds that plaintiffs have succeeded on the merits because the jury returned a verdict in plaintiffs' favor on their Equal Terms claim.

         B. Irreparable Harm

         The favorable Equal Terms verdict supports a finding that plaintiffs are suffering irreparable harm. Defendant's argument to the contrary is unavailing. Defendant contends that plaintiffs have not shown irreparable harm because the jury entered a favorable verdict for plaintiffs on their Equal Terms claim but not on their Substantial Burden claim. Defendant concedes that unequal treatment is a cognizable harm protected by RLUIPA. But, defendant contends that success on an Equal Terms claim alone does not necessarily support a finding of irreparable harm.

         The court rejects the premise that plaintiffs' favorable verdict on their Equal Terms claim alone cannot satisfy the irreparable harm standard. In Rocky Mountain, the court considered whether favorable jury verdicts for plaintiff's Substantial Burden, Equal Terms, and Unreasonable Limitations claims under RLUIPA satisfied the irreparable harm prong of the inquiry. 612 F.Supp.2d at 1160. The court concluded that the favorable RLUIPA verdicts sufficed:

The violation of one's right to the free exercise of religion necessarily constitutes irreparable harm. O Centro EspiritaBeneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal v. Ashcroft, 389 F.3d 973, 1008 (10th Cir. 2004). . . . The fact that the [Rocky Mountain Christian Church's (“RMCC”)] free exercise rights in this case are based on statutory claims under the RLUIPA rather than on constitutional provisions does not alter the irreparable harm analysis. See, e.g., Kikumara v. Hurley, 242 F.3d 950, 963 (10th Cir. 2001) (“courts have held that a plaintiff satisfies the irreparable harm analaysis by alleging a violation of RFRA”); Jolly v. Coughlin, 76 F.3d 468, 482 ([2d] Cir. 1996) (“although plaintiff's free exercise claim is statutory rather than constitutional, the ...

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