NPRI petitions U.S. Supreme Court to make church whole

For Immediate Release

Contact Chantal Lovell

May 27, 2015

702-222-0642, 951-295-4855 (cell)

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation today filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States, calling on the Court to reconsider a ruling that forces those whose rights are violated to forgo one constitutional right to vindicate another.

The Petition, filed by the legal arm of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, seeks to make “constitutionally whole” victims of multiple constitutional rights violations. The Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in United States v. Tohono O’Odham Nation effectively forces CJCL’s client, Ministerio Roca Solida (Solid Rock Church), pastored by Victor Fuentes, to choose between his rights to free exercise of religion and procedural due process and his right to be compensated for a governmental taking of private property.

CJCL Director and Chief Legal Officer Joseph Becker explains:

At issue is whether Congress may confine Pastor Fuentes and his churchgoers, the victims of multiple constitutional rights violations, to seek redress in but one federal court even though no single federal court has jurisdiction to remedy each of the constitutional violations suffered.

The church is suing the federal government because, in August 2010, the government, acting contrary to the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution and without even securing Clean Water Act permits or satisfying FEMA regulations, altered the historic flow pattern of the spring-fed stream that traversed the church’s private property since at least 1881, diverting the flow of water to a higher elevation flow path — a channel “engineered” by the government just to the outside of the church’s property line.  In so doing, the federal government “took” vested water rights belonging to the church. Making matters worse, on Christmas Eve 2010, coincident to area rainfall, water from the newly diverted stream overflowed its government-engineered channel, moved toward its historic (and lower-elevation) path, flooding and damaging the church camp’s buildings and property with the very spring flow that was both illegally and unconstitutionally diverted away from the church’s property just four months earlier.

By misconstruing a jurisdictional statute that had been applied justly and properly for the 50 years prior, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in Tohono held that when constitutional rights violations emerge “from the same operative facts,” claims for relief may be brought only in one federal court, even though no single federal court has jurisdiction to remedy each of the constitutional violations.  The effect of which, forces the church to forgo one constitutional right in order to remedy or enforce another.

In petitioning the Supreme Court for Writ of Certiorari, CJCL and NPRI hope to restore a path for the Solid Rock Church and others who have had their rights violated to be made whole, even in those instances where the government violates multiple rights in “one factual swoop.”

Ironically, Pastor Fuentes came to the United States to escape oppression by an unaccountable government. In 1991, he swam seven miles from near his home in Santiago, Cuba, to Guantanamo Bay and gained political asylum.

Petition for Writ of Certiorari: http://www.npri.org/docLib/20150527_PetitionforWritofCertiorari.pdf

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