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Pastor Says $2.3 Million Settlement 'Put This Silliness To An End'

Faith Fellowship Pastor Gary Mortara looks forward to finding a new site for his congregation now that a lawsuit with the city of San Leandro has been settled.

 

Pastor Gary Mortara said he will sit down with city officials soon to discuss a new location for his Faith Fellowship megachurch now that a five-year old lawsuit with the city has been settled. 

On Monday city officials said they would pay the church $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit filed in 2007 after Mortara tried to move his fast-growing congregation from Washington Manor to an industrial area.

The city refused to allow the move saying it conflicted with zoning that set the land aside for manufacturing uses.

The settlement ends a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and tested the power of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

RLUIPA (pronounced ree-loopa) gave churches the benefit of the doubt in zoning disputes with local authorities.

The church-city feud had drawn national attention. 

Last year the Wall Street Journal said San Leandro could be on the hook for $4 million in damages and attorney's fees. Other estimates put the city's potential liability as high as $20 million.

On Tuesday Mortara pronounced the $2.3 million settlement fair.

"It was a reasonable enough offer for us to accept it and put this silliness to an end," he said.

At the same time he felt the church's position had been vindicated.

"We didn't have to come to the table with a checkbook in our hand, they came with a checkbook in their hand because they were wrong," he said.

Now that the case is settled, Mortara still faces the task of finding a new location for the church, which now has 2,000 members.

He said the church has a couple of locations in mind that conform with the city's zoning code. Its leaders would start meeting with city officials soon to start reviewing the possibilities, he said.

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FOTS September 28, 2012 at 08:42 AM
@child of God....don't throw your pearls to the swines! Hearing they will not hear, seeing they will not see. The battle is done and the decision has been made. Let naysayers say they want. As long as you and those involved know the truth...that's all that matters. Just pray that God will give your Pastor and leaders wisdom and guidance to the right location in the future. And pray that your Pastor stays humble...I don't think his comments were said in lack of humility but I think the strong tone of righteous anger is felt....which can come off as a being a bit too confident.
FOTS September 28, 2012 at 08:47 AM
Anthony....sorry your wrong...I believe that you and almost everyone on this site have never been in a legal battle or had to fight a situation of substantial size....well let me tell you...if you experienced something like this you would understand that 2.3 million is not even remotely a great outcome for this case. Both parties lost trust me. If I was the church I wouldn't have settled for what they got.
FOTS September 28, 2012 at 08:51 AM
@Pastor Derek Jung....your statement says it all...FF won at U.S. supreme court level...so everyone on this site as well as myself opinion and comments don't matter. The city was found in error...the end.
FOTS September 28, 2012 at 09:03 AM
@ASK....where do you work? Do you work in the city of San leandro?....let us see your tax returns....you pay sooooo much taxes in San leandro. GIVE ME A BREAK!! Do you give to the poor in san leandro on a weekly basis? Do you go out and make sure that all the strip bars and drug spots on E 14th that's bringing down the community value dont receive YOUR TAX DOLLARS....But you make a Stupid statement about a church that received a measly 2.3 million dollars (which by the way has done more for the poor in san leandro than you) spending your tax dollars...going down the drain. Why don't you do your research and go find out how many law suits and other things the cities had to pay over the last 10 years with your tax dollars and then maybe think about making a comment about down the drain.
GoldenChild510 September 29, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I love how people continue to Target Christianity as a whole...why bash a religion (or anything for that matter) that promotes a better living, love for eachother, and reaching out to others with love and understanding...we are truly in the last days. Pastor Gary really surprised me... let me ask this... if u bought a new car off a lot and it looked good, promotes high gas mileage, a great warranty blah blah.The salesman made the deal sound real sweet. You pay cash upfront,You sign all paper work, get the keys in hand... then you go to start the car.....no engine, no transmission. Would you go back in the office or just take it as a loss??? I'm leaning toward heading back in the office and giving them a peice of my mind!-so I said all that to say, I believe that pastor Gary shouldn't have settled for less...so much drama behind this issue I feel he deserves it as well as the church. Being a city and having as much pull and play in these decisions should have made it impossible to purchase in the first place! Hello somebody!...its ok... GOD WILL ALWAYS COME THROUGH!!! Stay strong P.G. and congregation- your blessing is around the corner! Praise GOD!

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