It's occurred to me lately that the Our Lady of Hope lawsuit about historic preservation has dragged on for just about as long as the famous 3-year duration of the 8.5 Million Dollar Insurance Trial, June, 2005 to June, 2008. How could anyone forget that marathon, in which over a hundred victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Diocesan personnel over 60 years settled for millions of dollars after a convoluted courthouse journey encompassing dozens of lawyers and thousands of pages of disputed documents? The combined lawyer's bills alone must have been in the millions, though there was never an accounting of that particular item.
The stakes in this case are completely different. Here, there is only a solitary church, which has been deemed "historic" by the municipality of Springfield, and which has been deemed "non-historic" just as strongly by Bishop McDonnell, who has expressed a wish to encase it in concrete, if not tear it down completely.
The thing that unites the two lawsuits is that both were initiated by McDonnell and carried out with fidelity by John Egan, the longtime counsel for the diocese: both use every trick in the book: obfuscation, delaying tactics, endless appeals and arguing on technicalities are only a few. This conduct was particularly egregious in the case of the abuse victims, since their claims were essentially held hostage during the 3-year litigation. The Bishop's rejection of historic preservation, while still a widely-held social value, is less bad, I suppose, than the rejection of the dignity and rights of the victims of sexual abuse. Still, the tactics are aimed at the same effect, which is a general fatigue on the part of City lawyers and a greater inclination to move toward settlement as opposed to fighting it out.
With that in mind, below is a presentation of the main answers that the City's lawyers made to the purported 'facts' of the bishop's case. This happened fairly early in the proceedings as part of the groundwork for building the respective arguments. Each side sought summary declaration (that is, each side claimed that there were no substantial differences to decide, and that they should prevail by applying existing law to a recitation of the facts alone; thus the importance of the facts). This document has been shortened.
Case 3:10-cv-30033-MAP Document 27 Filed 08/13/10 Page 1 of 11
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF SPRINGFIELD, Plaintiff
v. CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, ET AL, Defendants
DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS AND DEFENDANTS’ SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS
Undisputed Material Facts
Springfield does not dispute most of the material facts set forth in paragraphs 1–31, 32 (which does not make any statement of material fact), 33–46, 49, 50, 52–63, 66, 70, and 71.
However, Springfield does dispute those portions of the said paragraphs, and all other paragraphs in Plaintiff’s Statement, in which plaintiff mischaracterizes the exterior architectural features on the OLOH site as “religious” expressions, details, features, ornamentation, or symbols. Springfield states that the plaintiff, by closing the OLOH church and placing it “out of service with respect to religious worship,” abandoned the “religious” nature of said exterior architectural features on the OLOH site, and thereby changed the status of the exterior architectural features on the OLOH site from religious to non-religious – from sacred to temporal goods.
Disputed Material Facts
2. Springfield disputes Plaintiff’s Statement, in paragraph 48: “On December 14, 2009, the RCB, through its counsel, appeared at a meeting of the Springfield Historical Commission and voiced objections based upon inadequate notice, that the designation imposed a constitutionally impermissible burden and that the creation of this Historic District would infringe upon the RCB’s constitutionally protected rights of religious freedom and freedom of speech, its statutory rights under RLUIPA and that the designation was unlawful spot regulation and a violation of other law. Further, the RCB asserted that the designation was an unlawful intrusion into its Pastoral Planning process as evidenced by the fact that the proponents of the Ordinance were parish members who had expressed their unhappiness with the closing of the parish and members of another parish, Immaculate Conception in Indian Orchard, slated to be closed and who had taken steps to have the Immaculate Conception Church, rectory, school and convent similarly designated by the Historical Commission and defendants. The RCB asked the Historical Commission to reject the proposal to create this single-parcel Historic District, and at a minimum, to seek a legal opinion to assess the constitutional effect of such a designation and regulation on the RCB, and to address all other legal ramifications of the proposed district. The Commission refused to seek such an opinion before reporting to the Springfield City Council its recommendation to create this historic district. Affidavit of John J. Egan, ¶ ¶ 5, 6 and 10 (App. Ex. 5); Complaint, ¶ 24 (App. Ex. 1).”
Springfield asserts that the Our Lady of Hope Historic District (the “Ordinance”) is not a “constitutionally impermissible burden” and does not “infringe upon the RCB’s constitutionally protected rights of religious freedom and freedom of speech, [or] its statutory rights under RLUIPA.” Furthermore, the Ordinance is not an “unlawful spot regulation [or] a violation of other law,” since the Historic Districts Act, G.L. c. 40C, Section 3, allows for the creation of single-parcel historic districts.
5. Springfield disputes Plaintiff’s Statement, in paragraph 64: “The Our Lady of Hope Historic District, and the later enacted Immaculate Conception Historic District, are the only historic districts in the City of Springfield encompassing property of the RCB. Affidavit of John J. Egan, ¶ 21 (App. Ex. 5).”
As noted in the Affidavit of Robert McCarroll: Springfield’s Local Historic Districts (“LHD”) include a number of religious institutions within their boundaries. Springfield created the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street LHD, its first district under MGL Chapter 40C, in 1972. Within its boundaries and subject to its exterior controls are Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral and Hispanic Baptist Church (Grace Baptist Church at the time of enactment). (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 10).
Springfield created the Forest Park Heights LHD in 1975. Within its boundaries and subject to its exterior controls are Faith United Church, Kodimoh Synagogue, and First Park Memorial Baptist Church. Additionally, at the time of the establishment of the LHD, there was an estate owned by the Congregation of Saint Vincent DePaul, a Roman Catholic order commonly known as the Vincentian Fathers; the property was sold in 1984 to a private person. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 11).
Springfield created the McKnight LHD in 1976. Within its boundaries and subject to its exterior controls are Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, Holy Temple Church, Christian Hill Baptist Church, Faith Baptist Church, and Huong Sun Meditation Temple, a Buddhist group. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 12).
Springfield created the Lower Maple LHD in 1977. Within its boundaries and subject to its exterior controls is South Congregational Church. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 13). The City of Springfield created the Maple Hill LHD in 1977. Within its boundaries and subject to its exterior controls is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Additionally, at the time of the establishment of the LHD, there was Ursuline Academy, a school operated by the Ursuline Sisters, a Roman Catholic order. The property was sold in 1984 to the Glorious Gospel Church but is now owned by the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start. (Exhibit McCarroll Aff. ¶ 14).
The Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (“MACRIS”) allows a search of the Massachusetts Historical Commission database for information on historic properties and areas in the Commonwealth. MACRIS reveals that a number of communities in Western Massachusetts have religious institutions located within the boundaries of their respective Local Historic Districts. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 15).
In 1972, Longmeadow created a LHD, which contains the First Church of Christ, Congregational. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 16). In 1972, West Springfield created a LHD, which contains the First Congregational Church. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 17). In 1975, Lenox created a LHD, which contains Saint Anne’s Roman Catholic Church, Church on the Hill, and Trinity Episcopal Church. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 18). In 1979, Granby created a LHD, which contains the Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Christ. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 19). In 1990, Belchertown created a LHD, which contains the Saint Francis Roman Catholic Church, Hope United Methodist Church, and the Congregational Church. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 20). In 1991, Chicopee created a LHD, which contains the Assumption of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church, Christ’s Community United Church of Christ, and Grace Episcopal Church. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 21). In 1994, Northampton created a LHD, which contains the Saint Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church, and Saint John’s Episcopal Church. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 22). In 1995, Great Barrington created a LHD, which contains the First Congregational Church. (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 23).
Searching MACRIS for communities beyond Western Massachusetts with local historic districts in which was a resource containing “catholic church” in its description and then searching the Internet for church web sites or web presence, McCarroll listed the results of that research exercise produced the list below from his Affidavit:
Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Barnstable
Saint Andrew’s Catholic Church in Billerica
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Boston
Our Lady of the Cape Catholic Church in Brewster
Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church in Concord (closed 2004)
Saint Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Edgartown
Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Groton (closed 2009)
Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lexington
Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church Lowell (now a Shrine)
Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Catholic Church in Natick
Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church, Oak Bluffs
Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Plymouth
Saint James’ Catholic Church in Salem
Saint John’s Catholic Church in Townsend
Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Uxbridge (Exhibit A McCarroll Aff. ¶ 24).
6. Springfield disputes Plaintiff’s Statement, in paragraph 65: “Since 1972 when the first historic district was designated in Springfield, the practice of the City of Springfield has been to exclude church property from such districts. Affidavit of John J. Egan, ¶ 22 (App. Ex. 5).”
Springfield does not specifically exclude or include churches, or any other religious property, in its local historic districts. Properties that are designated as a historical district are selected based on “the historic and architectural value and significance of the site, building or structure, the general design, arrangement, texture, material and color of the features involved, and the relation of such features to similar features of buildings and structures in the surrounding area.”
7. Springfield disputes Plaintiff’s Statement, in paragraph 67: “Placing these exterior religious symbols under government control through the creation of the Our Lady of Hope Historical District essentially freezes in place these religious symbols, stain glass windows, exterior crucifixes, and carved Latin scriptural phrases so that it is not possible for the Bishop to exercise his responsibilities under Church doctrine, scripture and Canon Law to safeguard and respect the ecclesiastical goods and other patrimony of the Roman Catholic Church which may necessitate either removal or relocation (as part of a sale to a third party), or other changes to prevent their desecration or other sordid use. Msgr. Bonzagni Affidavit, ¶ 24. (App. Ex. 3).”
Springfield asserts that the Ordinance does not “freeze in place” any exterior religious symbol, and the Bishop retains the ability to exercise his responsibilities to “safeguard and respect” these religious goods.
8. Springfield disputes Plaintiff’s Statement, in paragraph 68: “Placing control of the religious symbols now located on the exterior of Our Lady of Hope Church with the government of the City of Springfield directly interferes with the Bishop’s exercise and discharge of his doctrinal, scriptural and Canon Law obligations to safeguard and respect the ecclesiastical goods and other patrimony of the Roman Catholic Church. Msgr. Bonzagni Affidavit, ¶ 26.”
Although the Ordinance may inconvenience the Bishop, it does not amount to such a direct and substantial obstacle to the Bishop’s “exercise and discharge of his doctrinal, scriptural and Canon Law obligations” that would require RCB-owned property to be treated differently from non-religious property located within a historic district.
9. Springfield disputes Plaintiff’s Statement, in paragraph 69: “The Ordinance designating Our Lady of Hope Church as an historic district imposes significant restrictions on the RCB’s use of its religious symbols and property. More specifically, the historic designation prohibits the RCB from any construction or alteration “in any way that affects the exterior architectural features unless the [historic] commission shall first have issued a certificate of appropriateness, a certificate of non occupancy or a certificate of hard-ship with respect to such construction or alteration,” which certificates may only be obtained by requiring the RCB to file applications seeking such certificates “in such form as the [historic] commission may reasonably determine, together with such plans, elevations, specifications, material and other information, including in the case of demolition or removal a statement of the proposed condition and appearance of the property, thereafter, as may be reasonably deemed necessary by the [historic] commission to enable it to make a determination on the application.” (App. Ex. 8), G.L. c. 40C § 6.”
The Ordinance does not significantly restrict the RCB’s use of its religious symbols and property; it merely requires the RCB to follow the statutory process applied to every property subject to the Historic Districts Act. Plaintiff’s reference to “certificates of non-occupancy” is incorrect and should refer to certificates of “non-applicability,” pursuant to G.L. c. 40C.
DEFENDANTS: CITY OF SPRINGFIELD ET AL
Friday, August 13, 2010
City of Springfield Law Department 36 Court Street Springfield, MA 01103 Tel. No. (413) 787-6085 Fax No. (413) 787-6173s