744 N.E.2d 443 (Ind. 2001), 71S00-0008-CV-501, City Chapel Evangelical Free Inc. v. City of South Bend ex rel. Dept. of Redevelopment

Docket Nº:71S00-0008-CV-501.
Citation:744 N.E.2d 443
Party Name:CITY CHAPEL EVANGELICAL FREE INC., a/k/a City Chapel Evangelical Free Church, Defendant-Appellant, v. CITY OF SOUTH BEND, Indiana on behalf of its DEPARTMENT OF REDEVELOPMENT, Plaintiff-Appellee.
Case Date:March 29, 2001
Court:Supreme Court of Indiana

Page 443

744 N.E.2d 443 (Ind. 2001)

CITY CHAPEL EVANGELICAL FREE INC., a/k/a City Chapel Evangelical Free Church, Defendant-Appellant,


CITY OF SOUTH BEND, Indiana on behalf of its DEPARTMENT OF REDEVELOPMENT, Plaintiff-Appellee.

No. 71S00-0008-CV-501.

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 29, 2001

Page 444

James A. Masters, Nemeth, Feeney, Masters, Hosinski & Devetski, P.C., South Bend, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Cheryl A. Greene, City of South Bend, South Bend, IN, Attorney for Appellee.


DICKSON, Justice.

In this appeal, the defendant-appellant, City Chapel Evangelical Free Inc., also known as City Chapel Evangelical Free Church (hereinafter "City Chapel"), challenges a trial court's interlocutory order overruling its objections 1 to proceedings to condemn real estate initiated by the defendant-appellee, City of South Bend, Indiana (hereinafter "South Bend"). After this appeal was initiated, this Court granted transfer pursuant to Ind.Appellate Rule 4(A)(9) upon the request of both parties and their agreement that this appeal involves a substantial question of law of great public importance and that an emergency exists for speedy determination. City Chapel seeks a remand to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing on its claims that South Bend's taking of its place of worship violates state and federal constitutional provisions protecting rights of free exercise of religious worship and assembly. 2

The essential facts are not disputed. City Chapel, including its sanctuary, religious ministry rooms, and administrative offices, is located in a four-story brick building formerly used as a retail store. The building is one of three buildings located in a quarter block area at the corner

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of Jefferson Boulevard and Main Street that South Bend seeks to acquire for redevelopment. City Chapel was founded in 1994 to open a church and conduct a religious ministry in the downtown area of South Bend. It has a congregation of approximately one hundred members. Since acquiring the building in December, 1995, City Chapel has used it for twice-a-week worship services, Sunday school, the pastor's office, and other purposes of City Chapel's religious ministry. The building's upper floors are used as a parking garage.

I. Indiana Constitution

City Chapel contends that the condemnation proceeding violates its rights of free exercise of religious worship and assembly which are protected by Sections 2, 3, and 4 of Article 1, the Bill of Rights, of the Indiana Constitution, which provide as follows:

Section 2. All people shall be secured in the natural right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Section 3. No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.

Section 4. No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.

City Chapel asserts that the "issue is whether the state can use its power of eminent domain to take a church without a court conducting a hearing to balance the competing interests of the state and the church." Appellant's Br. at 8 (footnote omitted). Claiming that South Bend's condemnation proceeding involves not "just a property interest in the church building .... [but] infringes upon the congregation's use of the church building for the free exercise of religious worship and assembly," City Chapel asserts that the taking "will destroy the church." Id. at 8, 10. City Chapel urges that, under the Indiana Constitution, South Bend cannot take City Chapel's building without a hearing at which South Bend is required to prove "that the need or benefit which occasions its use of [the] police power [of eminent domain] outweighs the restrictions imposed on City Chapel's fundamental rights of freedom of worship and assembly." Id. at 25-26.

City Chapel contends that the Indiana Constitution protects core constitutional values which South Bend may not materially burden. It argues that the taking of its church building by condemnation would burden its right to religious worship under Section 2 and its right to free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions under Section 3. It further alleges that the rights guaranteed by Section 4 are burdened because South Bend, by pursuing this action against City Chapel but permitting another church located in a redevelopment district to remain, gives preference to a religious society or mode of worship.

South Bend principally argues that the Indiana Constitution's guarantees of religious protection should be equated with that provided in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and that, because South Bend's condemnation action is religion-neutral, no balancing test and thus no hearing is required. South Bend also urges that, even if Sections 2 and 3 of Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution provide religious protections that exceed those of the First Amendment, they only apply to the "personal devotional aspect of religion" and that the "incidental relocation" of the City Chapel building does not interfere with these rights. Appellee's Br. at 22. South Bend also asserts that the only constitutional inhibition on the taking of private property for public use is the requirement of just compensation.

When Indiana's present constitution was adopted in 1851, the framers who drafted it and the voters who ratified it did not copy or paraphrase the 1791 language

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of the federal First Amendment. 3 Instead, they adopted seven separate and specific provisions, Sections 2 through 8 of Article 1, relating to religion. Clearly, the religious liberty provisions of the Indiana Constitution were not intended merely to mirror the federal First Amendment. 4 We reject the contention that the Indiana Constitution's guarantees of religious protection should be equated with those of its federal counterpart and that federal jurisprudence therefore governs the interpretation of our state guarantees.

While it prohibits government interference with religious liberty, the Indiana Constitution also affirmatively recognizes the state's police power. It declares that government is "instituted for [the People's] peace, safety, and well-being." IND. CONST. art. 1, § 1. The Constitution's Preamble expressly declares its purposes to be "that justice be established, public order maintained, and liberty perpetuated." Although it does not expressly grant to the state the power of eminent domain, the Indiana Constitution acknowledges this power by implication in Article 1, Section 21, which provides in part that "No person's property shall be taken by law, without just compensation; nor, except in case of the State, without such compensation first assessed and tendered." In today's case, this governmental police power of eminent domain challenges the limitations on government in the religious liberty provisions.

The analysis is guided by Price v. State, 622 N.E.2d 954 (Ind.1993), in which Chief Justice Shepard explained:

[I]n Indiana the police power is limited by the existence of certain preserves of human endeavor, typically denominated as interests not 'within the realm of the police power,' upon which the State must tread lightly, if at all. Put another way, there is within each provision of our Bill of Rights a cluster of essential values which the legislature may qualify but not alienate. A right is impermissibly alienated when the State materially burdens one of the core values which it embodies.

Id. at 960 (citations omitted). Fifteen years earlier, our Court of Appeals had similarly observed that "churches are subject to such reasonable regulations as may be necessary to promote the public health, safety, or general welfare," but that "[r]easonable restrictions, however, are not tantamount to exclusion." Church of Christ v. Metropolitan Bd. of Zoning App., 175 Ind.App. 346, 351, 371 N.E.2d 1331, 1334 (1978)(quotations marks and citations omitted). Holding that the Board contravened Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution by excluding a church from a residential area, the court declared:

Denial by the City of Indianapolis of the use of this residential property for religious purposes presents the classic confrontation between exercise of the police power and a fundamental constitutional right. If the citizen fails to heed Wendell Phillip's admonition that "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," encroaching government may devour that fundamental right (and what is more fundamental than freedom of religion, which is a vital part of freedom of thought?). Wittingly or unwittingly, the City of Indianapolis has been guilty of such an encroachment.

Id. at 349-50, 371 N.E.2d at 1334. As emphasized in Whittington v. State, 669 N.E.2d 1363 (Ind.1996), "[t]he purpose of state power, then, is to foster an atmosphere

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in which individuals can fully enjoy that measure of freedom they have not delegated to government." Id. at 1368.

The underlying issue sought to be presented is thus whether South Bend's proposed taking of City Chapel's building under the state's police power of eminent domain is a prohibited material burden, in contrast to a permissible qualification, upon the core values of the religious protection clauses asserted by City Chapel. South Bend's condemnation proceedings will amount to a material burden upon a core value "[i]f the right, as impaired, would no longer serve the purpose for which it was designed." Price, 622 N.E.2d at 960 n. 7. The "material burden" analysis looks only to the magnitude of the impairment and does...

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