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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court OKs Condo Project Above New Baptist Church

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The 4th Circuit dismissed an Arlington County taxpayer's complaint against the county's $46 million project to build affordable private apartments above a new Baptist church.

Peter Glassman, who lives a block away from the site, had claimed the project was scheme to advance the Baptist faith, and that using public funds to build a church violates the Constitution.

A federal judge dismissed the complaint filed by Peter Glassman, finding no evidence to support that building the Views at Clarendon condominium above a new church violated the Establishment Clause.

The three-judge appellate panel affirmed the ruling and criticized Glassman's complaint for pairing facts with innuendo.

Glassman had claimed the county was forcing taxpayers to pick up a large chunk of the $46 million development bill while the church and developer raided the county's Affordable Housing Investment Fund. He accused the church of masking its religious zeal behind the guise of increasing affordable housing.

Writing for the federal appeals panel, Judge Paul Niemeyer dismissed Glassman's claims of church and state entanglement, stating that the Establishment Clause "does not prohibit all interaction between church and state."

"The county's announced purpose to provide affordable housing is undoubtedly a legitimate, secular goal, and we conclude that the allegations in the complaint do not support the claim that this secular goal was a sham or that the county had a purpose to advance religion in deciding to lend money to the project," Neimeyer wrote.

Construction began in January 2010 and will continue into 2011, according to the Views at Clarendon's website. The 10-story building will consist of two condominiums, one of which incorporates the steeple from a former church located on the site, above two floors of church sanctuary.

While public funds support the affordable housing project, the First Baptist Church of Clarendon created funding for the steeple section of the condominium, an attorney for the parties behind the project explained.

"Not one penny of Arlington county's money is being used by anyone to pay for the construction of [the steeple] condominium," Raighne Delaney of Bean, Kinney & Korman said in a blog post on the building's website.

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