The Proof is in the Pudding: Church Prompts City to Look at Equal Treatment Law


CHICAGO—Today, Immanuel Baptist Church filed a response to the city’s motion to dismiss its case, outlining to Judge Tharp in the Northern District Court how the city has treated the church religious assembly on unequal terms with nonreligious assemblies in the area. The suit cites the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal law requiring that religious assemblies be treated equal to nonreligious assemblies. The motion cites three times where a city official state uncertainty in wanting a religious assembly there, even though they are permitted in the area. The church began renting the space at 1443 W. Roosevelt in August 2011 and was set to close its purchase in June 2016.

In Chicago, religious assemblies are required to have an 8 to 1 ratio of seats to parking spaces. Other nonreligious assembly uses, however, have less stringent parking requirements and in some cases, no parking requirements. In February 2017, Immanuel Baptist Church sued the city in hopes of bringing to light the city’s discriminatory ordinance on parking for religious assemblies but not on comparable assemblies, such as the Lozano library less than a mile from Immanuel Baptist, which has no parking for its patrons or employees. The motion highlights an article about City Hall’s sale of the Lozano Library’s parking lot in 2001, which brought the library out of compliance with the city’s parking ordinance and benefitted an ally of then-Mayor Daley. “…Why can the city bend (or ignore) the rules for a nonreligious assembly when it benefits its officials but cannot make exceptions for a small religious assembly serving its community?”

Another project nearby in the neighborhood for a new 73-unit residential complex and a library on Taylor Street would need to have 84 parking spaces to comply with the city’s parking ordinance but the project details that it only has 9 designated for the library and 25 for the residential building.