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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office and Justice Department Close Religious Land Use Investigation of the City of Pryor Creek Following Zoning Code Revisions

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Oklahoma

U.S. Attorney Trent Shores announced today that due to recent amendments made to the City of Pryor Creek’s zoning code, the Justice Department will close its investigation into whether the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it rejected Cornerstone Truth of God’s efforts to obtain a special use permit to operate a church there. RLUIPA is a civil rights law that protects against religious discrimination. 

The Pryor Creek City Council published the ordinance on March 25. The Justice Department will officially close the investigation in 30 days, when the zoning ordinance takes effect.

“Religious institutions of all faiths should be free from discriminatory zoning actions and ordinances that restrict their ability to expand or establish places of worship. I will work to ensure that is the case in northeastern Oklahoma,” said U.S. Attorney Shores. “In this instance, I appreciate Pryor Creek’s cooperation and willingness to find workable solutions that ensured the protection of the religious rights of the Cornerstone Truth of God Church. When city leaders were made aware that they had violated RLUIPA, they accommodated the church and examined what changes needed to be made to their zoning laws.”

In July 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in partnership with the Department of Justice, opened an investigation into Pryor Creek’s zoning laws and whether the city discriminated against the Cornerstone Truth of God Church’s efforts to obtain a special use permit. The investigation centered on how zoning laws treated religious areas of assembly differently compared to secular areas of assembly. Religious groups in America have the constitutional right to use land for religious exercise, free from discriminatory restrictions, and to be treated on equal terms with secular groups.

Shortly after the investigation was opened, the City granted a special use permit to the church.  The City also began revising its zoning code so that it treated secular and religious areas of assembly the same.  On March 19, the City Council approved revisions to its zoning code, which put secular and religious areas of assembly on equal footing.

RLUIPA is a federal law that protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations.  Last year, the Justice Department announced its Place to Worship Initiative, which focusses on RLUIPA’s provisions that protect the rights of religious institutions to worship on their land.  More information is available at

Individuals who believe they have been subjected to discrimination in land use or zoning decisions may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma at (918) 382-2700 and ask for Civil Division Assistant U.S. Attorney Marianne Hardcastle.  You can also contact the Civil Rights Division Housing and Civil Enforcement Section at (800) 896-7743, or on the complaint portal on the Place to Worship Initiative website. 


Public Affairs

Updated March 27, 2019

Civil Rights