From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Conference receives permission to join Vision Church lawsuit

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Mon, 12 Apr 2004 12:41:13 -0500

April 12, 2004	 News media contact: Linda Green 7 (615)742-5470 7 Nashville,
Tenn. 7 E-mail: 7 ALL-KOR{170}

NOTE: A head-and-shoulders photograph of Bishop C. Joseph Sprague is
available at

By United Methodist News Service

A federal judge has allowed the Northern Illinois Annual Conference to join a
lawsuit against a community that had stopped construction of a United
Methodist sanctuary on church-owned property.

Federal Judge Charles R. Norgle granted the conference permission to
intervene as co-plaintiffs in Vision United Methodist Church's 4-year-old
land-use battle against Long Grove (Ill.) Village. The conference, a regional
unit of the denomination, comprises 400 churches, including the Vision

Last August, the predominantly Korean-American congregation filed a $5
million civil rights lawsuit against the community, charging that members of
Long Grove had "maliciously" worked to stop development of a church on the
church's property.

Conference counsel Sam Witwer requested permission from the U.S. District
Court for the conference to be a co-plaintiff in the case. Norgle granted the
conference and Bishop Joseph Sprague's motion April 7. 

Another co-plaintiff is the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious liberty group
that joined the case in August.

In June 1999, Vision Church signed a contract to buy 28 acres of land in
unincorporated Lake County on the condition that the Village of Long Grove
would annex the land and approve the church's plans to construct a worship
facility. The congregation bought the land at the corner of Gilmer and North
Kruger roads for $1.1 million in September 2000.

After more than a year of negotiations, protests by residents, hearings and
revisions to architectural plans, the Village of Long Grove rejected the
church's request for annexation and approval. The congregation then applied
to Lake County for a building permit. As county officials were approving the
church's development plans, Long Grove began a forced annexation of the
church property.

Vision's lawsuit charges that Long Grove violated the First and 14th
Amendments to the Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutional
Persons Act of 2000.

Witwer said that of all of the religious land-use abuse cases he has
encountered, "this one strikes me as the most egregious involving any

Sprague called the conference's intervention precedent-setting because the
Vision church has cooperated with Long Grove Village in doing all that has
been asked of it, but "for reasons that I cannot comprehend, (the village
has) blocked them at every turn."  

The community's actions are "un-American and un-Christian," Sprague said. "As
Christians in the Wesleyan tradition, we cannot stand back and not allow
scriptural holiness to be spread across the land."

Witwer said the Vision church "continues to follow the letter of the law in
seeking justice for their constitutional rights to build a house a worship."

An attorney for the Village of Long Grove was unavailable for comment.


United Methodist News Service
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