U.S. sues village for religious discrimination


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The United States Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the Village of Walthill in Nebraska for alleged religious discrimination against a church.

In a statement released on Thursday, it stated that Walthill denied Light of the World Gospel Ministries, a nondenominational and multi-ethnic Christian body, a permit to construct a new church building.

The department alleged that in the same period the village approved construction of a library, an education centre and other nonreligious places of gathering in the locality.

It said the alleged action was a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalised Persons Act (RLUIPA).

“The complaint, filed in the District of Nebraska, alleges that on Sept. 13, 2017, the Village of Walthill denied Light of the World’s application for a special use permit to construct a church on property it owns in a commercial district in downtown Walthill.

“During the same period, the village approved construction of nonreligious places of assembly in the district, including a library and an education center,’’ it said.

The department added that by that action, Walthill imposed “a substantial burden on the church’s religious exercise without adequate justification.”

It said the village also treated the church worse than “comparable’’ nonreligious assemblies and institutions.

“Treating places of worship less favorably than nonreligious assemblies is unlawful discrimination against religious exercise,” the statement quoted U.S. Assistant Attorney General, Eric Dreiband, as saying.

Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division, expressed the department’s commitment to protecting the rights of congregations guaranteed by federal laws.