Covenant Christian Ministries, et al. v. City of Marietta, Georgia
Plaintiffs brought an action against the City of Marietta, Georgia, challenging the validity of its zoning ordinance. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the city and against plaintiffs on all claims except for one plaintiff's claim (Covenant) that the city's ordinance, as amended in November 2004, facially violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc, by treating religious assemblies less favorably than non-religious assemblies. The court held that claims seeking injunctive relief were moot in light of the passage of the 2008 Ordinance and dismissed those claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that, to the extent that RLUIPA claims sought damages, they failed on the merits because all damages stemmed from Covenant's inability to build a church in the R-2 residential zone and Covenant was not entitled to build a church in that zone. The court further held that the district court did not err in concluding that the 2004 Ordinance facially violated the equal terms provision of RLUIPA and did not err in awarding nominal damages for this claim. The court finally held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Covenant's motion to leave to amend the complaint.