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Whether you need renovations, additions, or new construction, our members build your facility around your vision. Your vision may not fully be formed - or you may know exactly what you want right down to the smallest detail; either way, our members will help guide you through the building process. Here are some ideas and past projects to get your creativity flowing.

A good place to start would be looking at the following files and downloads: Suggested ReadingHow Much can I Afford and Defining Your Worship Style.
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DOJ Announces Place to Worship Initiative

by National Association of Church Design Builders on 07/18/18

Written by Steven Dimitt, NACDB Member & Attorney for Jackson Walker

As churches and religious organizations expand and grow, they can face obstacles and push back from municipalities. Common complaints from municipalities typically revolve around alleged parking or traffic concerns. However, these alleged concerns are sometimes merely a charade to prevent a tax-exempt religious organization from occupying an otherwise taxable piece of property.

RLUIPA: A Federal Statute to Help Religious Organizations

Local governmental bodies may even try to restrict the church’s religious practice by limiting the locations that a church may exist in the city or even placing impermissible conditions on the church’s practice. Fortunately, in 2000, Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), a bipartisan statute that embodies two American ideals: the right to own property and the right to practice one’s religion freely. RLUIPA is a federal law that protects places of worship and other religious uses of property (including religious schools and religious social service providers) in the zoning and landmarking process from actions by local governments that:

  • Place substantial burdens on religious exercise;
  • Treat religious assemblies and institutions worse than nonreligious assemblies and institutions;
  • Discriminate against religious assemblies or institutions based on religion or religious denomination; or
  • Totally or unreasonably exclude religious assemblies and institutions from a particular municipality or county.

Although the law has been in effect for eighteen years, the Department of Justice has indicated that “far too many people and communities remain unware of the law, or do not fully understand the scope of its provisions.” In fact, a July 2016 report by the Department of Justice revealed that the number of RLUIPA investigations on a per year basis has remained pretty constant since the enactment of the law.

The Government’s Place to Worship Initiative 

On June 13, 2018, in order to address continuing RLUIPA violations, the Attorney General announced the Place to Worship Initiative.  The goal of the Initiative is to “focus on protecting the ability of houses of worship and other religious institutions to build, expand, buy, or rent facilities—as provided under by the land use provisions of [RLUIPA].”

The Initiative seeks to increase the DOJ’s enforcement of RLUIPA, and educate religious leaders, county and municipal officials, and the general public about RLUIPA. In announcing the initiative, Attorney General Sessions provided the following statement:

“The Constitution doesn’t just protect freedom to worship in private—it protects the public exercise of religious belief, including where people worship together,” Attorney General Sessions said. “Under the laws of this country, government cannot discriminate against people based on their religion–not in law enforcement, not in grant-making, not in hiring, and not in local zoning laws. President Trump is an unwavering defender of the right of free exercise, and under his leadership, the Department of Justice is standing up for the rights of all Americans. By raising awareness about our legal rights, the Place to Worship Initiative will help us bring more civil rights cases, win more cases, and prevent discrimination from happening in the first place.”

A detailed Statement of the Department of Justice on the Land Use Provisions of RLUIPA with Questions and Answers (June 13, 2018), is available here. The DOJ also launched a new web page, which provides more information on RLUIPA and its protections.

Examples of Potential RLUIPA Violations 

(a)       Substantial Burden Example

A church is denied a permit to build an addition to accommodate more Sunday school classes, which it believes it needs to carry out its religious mission. This may violate RLUIPA if the municipality cannot show a compelling reason for the denial.

(b)       Equal Terms Example

A church leases space in a storefront. Zoning officials deny an occupancy permit because houses of worship are forbidden in that particular zoning district. However, fraternal organizations, meeting halls, and banquet facilities are all permitted as of right in the same zoning district. This may violate RLUIPA.

(c)        Discrimination Example

A Baptist congregation is denied a building permit for a church despite meeting all of the requirements for height, setback, and parking required by the zoning code. The zoning administrator is overheard making a disparaging remark about Baptists. If it were proven that the permit was denied because the applicants were Baptists, this would violate RLUIPA.

(d)       Totally or Unreasonably Excluding Houses of Worship Example

A municipality, seeking to preserve tax revenues, enacts a law that no new churches or other houses of worship will be permitted. Such a total exclusion may violate RLUIPA.

Jackson Walker has worked with the DOJ on a few RLUIPA cases in the past. We found the DOJ to be a tremendous advocate and asset to help resolve a RLUIPA dispute. For more information on Jackson Walker’s RLUIPA practice please visit

The Better Way to Build: The Benefits of Design-Build Construction

by National Association of Church Design Builders on 06/16/18

By Dow Smith, member of the NACDB

What business wouldn’t want to choose a building process that offers opportunities to save money, to reduce construction time, to allow customization, to optimize quality, and to streamline the entire experience?

No hands raised in the audience? That comes as no surprise to all of us at Dow Smith Company. We’ve worked with hundreds of clients since 1992, and those are key advantages that every one of our clients has valued.

Today, we’re pleased to be regarded as Middle Tennessee's expert in a process loaded with many intrinsic benefits. Known as “Design-Build,” its cost efficiency, time savings, and collaborative nature have made it popular among clients for everything from commercial and municipal buildings to sports facilities, churches, restaurants, manufacturing plants, medical facilities, and more.

How does it work?

Design-Build Single Contract | Dow Smith CompanyTo begin with, the design-build process is much more fluid than traditional design-bid-build, where the owner hires an architect to design a set of plans then puts the job out to bid. Instead of long gaps of time (and remember, time is money) between different phases of a project being completed by different participants, each member of a design-build team works together from the start and during every step of the process to help move things along quickly and more smoothly.

Design-build allows you to vet potential candidates based on experience, then dig into the details of your specific project. This design-build selection process often overlaps with the next phase—the pre-construction phase—since the design-builder team selected will likely have already done a significant amount of research and analysis of the construction site and other particulars of the project. 

Notice that you’d be saving time even at the very beginning of the project.

This pre-construction step is critical. Attention to detail is paramount. This is when the design-builder will learn about the owner’s business, including goals, challenges, budget, and overall vision for the project. It’s a time for asking as many questions as necessary, so as to get a solid picture of what is expected to be delivered. Our clients tell us that they find this phase invaluable. This is when our experience can help you fine-tune plans based on what we have learned from more than 25 years of construction throughout Middle Tennessee. Efficiencies, added benefits, cost reductions, and enhancements have grown out of this collaborative, team-focused process.

During this phase, the owner, architects, engineers, contractors, and other consultants work together as a team to assess existing structures, electrical systems, HVAC systems, operational necessities, and more to determine what needs to be done before construction starts. These assessments allow for a thorough analysis of the construction site, which helps the design-build team maximize efficiency throughout the project.

At this stage, we view our work—together with you and the entire team—as an excellent opportunity to assess areas for cost savings and optimized productivity, while also meeting functional requirements and style preferences. We’ll leave no stone unturned when it comes to suggesting ways to save time, money, or logistical hassles. This process helps us deliver a building that suits your needs and schedule.

The overall project vision is established during this phase, and preliminary drawings are developed. Pricing estimates can be established during this phase as well, and a firm budget is provided. In addition, we’ll have a timeline for you so that you understand start and end dates, and every critical point in between. Our goal is to ensure that you find the construction experience as disruption-free as possible.

Bottom line: we have experienced that fewer design changes and mistakes are made due to miscommunication when design-build is employed. The increase in collaboration enables customization and innovation, which results in less time and fewer materials being wasted at each stage of the project. The result? A higher quality deliverable—with no surprises—ultimately resulting in increased satisfaction by the owner.

Technology in Worship...

by National Association of Church Design Builders on 05/08/18


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