Lawsuit accuses city of flooding Christian camp

By Bob Unruh

(Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

A lawsuit has been filed in Illinois charging that officials in the city of Des Plaines are trying to ruin a church campground, directing floodwaters toward its 100-plus-year-old buildings and then demanding they be demolished, at least partly camp officials resisted the city’s COVID-19 ideologies.

The Journal-Topics reports the Chicago District Campground, also known as the Methodist Campground, has unleashed a “blistering rebuttal” to the city’s insistence on demolition for 50 of the camp’s buildings.

Officials at the camp are asserting “the city’s real intention is to ruin the religious organization because it did not capitulate to city demands that it adhere to strict regulations” during a revival event at the camp three years ago, during COVID.

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Further, the camp charges it has been subjected to “harmful flooding” because the city took actions to direct floodwaters its way.

Specifically, the camp charges that as part of the city’s Levee 50 operation, city officials “rotated the spigot toward the campground” on activating, resulting, according to the report, “in additional flooding and harm to the campground’s 35 acres — and some of its buildings.”

“Because of the actions of the city of Des Plaines … the campground’s ministry now faces the risk of permanent extinguishment. Over the past 15 years, the campground has suffered repeated flooding events, the intensity, duration, and frequency of which far exceed anything the campground previously encountered in its long tenure nestled on the banks of the Des Plaines River. Unbeknownst to the campground, these floods were no act of God, but, instead, a result of novel flooding infrastructure owned and operated by the city.”

Those floods have “caused substantial damage to the campground’s historic structures.”

While the campground had been trying to cooperate with the city, its refusal to “suppress prayer and worship” on the property, on the orders of the city, triggered a falling out, the claim states.

“The city crafted a plan to retaliate against the campground with the goal of shutting it down permanently through the façade of an enforcement action based on flood damage,” the case charges.

Damage, “that the city itself had caused.”

The camp actually dates to 1860, and now claims that its original charter provides protections, including the right to “fix and adorn its land for use at its discretion.”

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

The city’s flood control project, however, built a levee “around the campground, leaving the campground unprotected while benefiting other properties.” That project then moved the campground into ” regulatory floodway.”

The action was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by lawyers for First Liberty Institute and Kirkland & Ellis.

It’s in response to the city’s agenda that is trying to force the camp to renovate or demolish 50 structures on its land.

The campground, run by a board of trustees, asked for help from Liberty, which is known for its work protecting religious liberties.

The campground explains the First Amendment and state provisions regarding religious freedom protect it from “unfettered intrusion by government.”

The report explained, “Up until the 2020 revival during the height of the pandemic, the city and campground seemed to be working together to improve the property. Nineteen of the cottages in disrepair were demolished and five elevated to prevent them from flooding.”

However, a revival event was held during 2020 and there was criticism of the camp because some of those attending did not wear masks, which have since then proven to be less than effective anyway.

“That’s when the city’s tone changed,” said Jeremy Dys, a lawyer on the case.

“They wanted to eliminate the campground. We’ve seen this before when the local government is met with blowback. It seems like retribution. That’s not how this country has operated throughout its history. The campground is now being punished for daring to challenge the city.”

That “hostility,” the camp claims, resulted in citations for various structures and city demands that it dictate what happens at the camp.

Mayor Andrew Gozkowski told the publication city officials were concerned about safety, suggesting camp buildings could fall down with people inside.

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