Lawsuit Athey Creek Church

Athey Creek Church Lawsuit

  • Athey Creek Christian Fellowship, the plaintiff, believes they’ve been unfairly treated under the county’s zoning regulations. They argue this is a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a law designed to protect religious institutions from discriminatory land use regulations.
  • Clackamas County, the defendant, presumably believes they’ve acted within their rights and that their regulations are lawful and not discriminatory.
  • The lawsuit’s cause of action revolves around these alleged zoning regulation violations.
  • The relief Athey Creek Christian Fellowship is seeking includes a preliminary injunction and a declaratory judgment.

Athey Creek Church Lawsuit Details

The lawsuit revolves around a zoning dispute between Athey Creek Christian Fellowship and Clackamas County. The Creek Christian Fellowship, a church community, had been working on a construction project for which it had obtained a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) way back in 2006. However, when it attempted to proceed with the second phase of the project in 2022, the Fellowship faced hurdles due to a zoning issue.

The crux of the lawsuit is the allegation of unequal treatment of religious assemblies under the county’s Zoning and Development Ordinance. The church feels that it’s being singled out and treated differently than other entities in similar situations. This perceived discrimination is what led them to take the matter to the U.S. District Court in Oregon in November 2022.

Unfortunately for the Fellowship, their motion for a preliminary injunction and declaratory judgment in the case was denied by the court. This setback, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for their cause.

Parties involved

Athey Creek Christian Fellowship, the plaintiff, is a church seeking justice in a case against Clackamas County, the defendant. This lawsuit is centered around the Zoning and Development Ordinance, with the Fellowship claiming unequal treatment of religious assemblies.

The lawsuit is being overseen by the Oregon District Court, a federal entity known for handling such disputes. The Fellowship, in their legal pursuit, is seeking relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. This Act, often abbreviated as RLUIPA, is a federal law that protects the religious freedom of institutions and individuals.

The cause of action

The Fellowship’s struggle is rooted in:

  • The pressing need to accommodate a growing congregation within their limited space
  • The county’s alleged confirmation in 2013 that their original CUP was still active led them to believe they didn’t need a new permit
  • The resulting confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the Zoning Ordinance
  • Turning to RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, for relief against perceived zoning discrimination

Relief being sought

Seeking a solution to their predicament, the Fellowship turned to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) for relief. They alleged that the zoning ordinance was unfairly restrictive, hindering their ability to accommodate their growing congregation. According to them, the ordinance wasn’t treating religious assemblies equally, which ran counter to the provisions of RLUIPA.

The Fellowship claimed they were faced with a difficult choice. They could either endure the lengthy, costly, and uncertain process of obtaining a new conditional use permit or continue struggling with their space limitations. Their predicament was a clear example of when RLUIPA’s protections should kick in.

However, the court didn’t see it that way. They insisted that the Fellowship failed to demonstrate that they’d suffer irreparable harm without preliminary relief. This meant that their claim fell short of the criteria needed for such relief under RLUIPA.

Key events and timeline

The following key events provide a clear picture:

  • The acquisition of land by Creek Christian Fellowship in 2005.
  • The granting of the conditional use permit in 2006.
  • The decision to start the second phase of building in 2022.
  • The filing of the lawsuit against Clackamas County on November 4, 2022.

Key arguments

The key arguments of the lawsuit center around the Fellowship’s claim of unequal treatment under the county’s zoning rules and the constraints imposed by their existing permit. According to the Athey Creek Church, county officials confirmed the original Conditional Use Permit (CUP) was still active in 2013. The church, however, faced difficulties accommodating its growing congregation due to space limitations enforced by the CUP.

The church chose not to apply for a new or modified CUP for further building, citing process length, expense, and uncertainty. The crux of this argument is the perceived unequal treatment of religious assemblies under the Zoning and Development Ordinance. The church argues that the zoning rules are disadvantaging them, hindering their growth and functioning.

In response, the Athey Creek Church sought relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. They claimed that the county’s zoning rules, together with the limitations of their existing CUP, violated their rights under this act.

Lawsuit Athey Creek Church

Current status

At present, the lawsuit between Athey Creek Christian Fellowship and Clackamas County is still pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. This legal dispute, which is centered on a civil rights issue, has been ongoing since November 4, 2022.

The current status of the case is listed as ‘Pending—Other Pending’.


While the case is still unfolding, it’s worth considering the potential implications it could have on the interpretation of land use regulations and the rights of religious institutions. The legal dispute between Athey Creek Christian Fellowship and Clackamas County revolves around a zoning ordinance and the need for a modified conditional use permit.

This case raises questions about the fairness of zoning ordinances, particularly as they apply to religious land use. These laws are meant to regulate land use in a way that’s equitable for all, but are they always applied fairly when it comes to religious institutions? The church’s claim of unequal treatment under the Zoning and Development Ordinance brings this issue into sharp focus.

Athey Creek’s failed attempt to secure a preliminary injunction brings another important aspect to light: the necessity of demonstrating irreparable harm to obtain this kind of relief.

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