A city in Illinois is taking dramatic action against a Christian campground, demanding that the organization demolish nearly all of the buildings on its property that were damaged by flooding. The ministry believes the demand is retaliation for its holding a revival during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organization involved is the Chicago District Camp Ground Association, Inc., otherwise known as Methodist Campground. Nestled on the banks of Illinois’ Des Plaines River, the ministry was founded in the 1860s and has held events and revivals throughout its storied history.
Now, however, it is on the financial brink thanks to the demands of the City of Des Plaines, which sued it in the Cook County Circuit Court and demanded that it demolish the aforementioned buildings, an order that the ministry alleged would “financially ruin” it.
That claim came in an amended filing in which Methodist Campground said, “Upon information and belief, the actions taken by the City since the Campground’s tent revival have been part of a coordinated effort that began in late July 2020 to retaliate against the Campground for defying the City and hosting a religious revival over the City’s objections. The City ultimately seeks to use these legal proceedings as a means to financially ruin the Campground and deprive it of the Property it has owned and operated since the 1860’s.”
Reiterating that claim elsewhere in the filing, Methodist Campground alleges, “Under the guise of its flood and building regulations, the City initiated this proceeding in order to bankrupt the Campground and take its Property, and permanently extinguish the Campground’s ability ever to reengage in the kind of religious exercise that City officials found so repugnant in 2020.”
That filing also noted the dramatic and merciless action the city has taken, saying, “The City refused to meet with the Campground or grant it additional time to craft a plan-of-action as it has previously done, opting instead to file this action with this Court on April 9, 2021. In addition to seeking the demolition of all 74 structures listed in the City’s March 2021 report and recouping those costs from the Campground, the City also seeks daily fines for all alleged violations dating back to March 8, 2021.”
Further, Methodist Campground attempted to work with Des Plaines, as it provided in the filing, saying, “The Campground responded to the City’s notice with a letter dated March 19, 2021, reiterating its desire to continue working with the City to restore the Campground’s structures. The letter included a detailed plan to demolish 24 structures over the course of two phases while the Campground also worked to save all other structures listed in the City’s report. It also detailed initial steps being taken by the Campground to demolish 10 structures listed in the City’s report and proposed barricading off structures that required immediate action until the Campground could take actions to address the City’s concerns. Finally, the letter requested a 90-day extension of any threatened legal action to provide the Campground an opportunity to meet with City officials to fashion a way for the parties to amicably work together.”
Ryan Gardner, an attorney with First Liberty, the organization defending Methodist Campground, said, “The campground filed a motion to amend its pleadings so that it could assert a variety of constitutional, federal and Illinois state law claims and defenses against the City of Des Plaines.”
He continued, “Not only has the City flooded the Campground for years, but now it seeks to regulate the Campground out of existence with a lawsuit that is nothing more than retaliation against the campground for hosting a religious revival in defiance of the City’s unlawful attempt to stifle religious gatherings in 2020.”
"*" indicates required fields