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ADF Ally Leads Fight to Defend Religious Property Rights
A Chicago attorney leads his firm in breaking new legal ground on behalf of America’s churches

John Mauck was just a year out of law school when he gave his life to Jesus Christ – and his career, too.  But 15 years passed before he was first asked to make particular good on that latter commitment, by stepping forward to defend a church besieged by thorny zoning issues.

He won the case, and “in a variety of ways,” he says, “God confirmed that this was a message from Him.”  Mauck began applying his legal know-how in earnest to help the Body of Christ. He defended the freedom of congregations across America to develop their land and facilities for religious use.  He gradually developed a nationwide reputation as an authority on those rights, and cultivated a solid working relationship with Alliance Defense Fund attorneys.

“ADF helped us out a lot with cases, particularly in terms of funding,” he says. “They had a great vision of coordinating the work of Christian lawyers, rather than just everyone doing their own thing.  I thought that was a godly idea, and I wanted to learn all I could from them.”

In 1996, a Congressional subcommittee invited Mauck, among others, to testify on religious land use issues, as part of an ongoing effort to produce a bill that would address the growing conflict between religious expression and local zoning laws. When the Supreme Court declared the result unconstitutional in 1997, Mauck led an alliance of religious groups and attorneys in writing a new, better law: RLUIPA (the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000).

That law is now the standard for deciding most religious land use cases (see Cover Story, p. 8), and Mauck has applied it as a lawyer or consultant for hundreds of churches all over the country, in cooperation with his four associates, most of whom are graduates of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, and all of whom have attended the National Litigation Academy. That ADF training is crucial to Mauck, who – along with his firm – was recently honored by ADF for outstanding pro bono legal service to Christian clients (See Updates, p. 17). 

“Jesus went not just to religious leaders, but to the lawyers and judges of His day,” he says. “He knew how important it was to reach those who’d be interpreting the law.  ADF, through its training programs for allied attorneys and law students, is coming to the right theological conclusion, that training lawyers to advocate for Christian liberty and Christian values is exactly parallel to Jesus ministry of discipleship.”

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