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McHenry County could approve settlement with Fraternite Notre Dame on Monday

Religious order sued after officials rejected expansion for Marengo operation

Nuns with Fraternite Notre Dame listen during a McHenry County Board meeting Sept. 15, 2015, at the McHenry County Administration Building. The McHenry County Board might end its years-long legal battle with the organization Monday.
Nuns with Fraternite Notre Dame listen during a McHenry County Board meeting Sept. 15, 2015, at the McHenry County Administration Building. The McHenry County Board might end its years-long legal battle with the organization Monday.

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board might end its years-long legal battle Monday with a French Christian order that has plans to expand its operations near Marengo.

Fraternite Notre Dame filed a federal lawsuit against McHenry County in 2015 after officials rejected a request for a conditional use permit to carry out plans to add a boarding school, nursing home, winery, brewery and gift shop to its
95 acres at 10002 Harmony Hill Road, south of Marengo and Union.

The organization alleged that the county discriminated against it as a religious institution and violated equal opportunity protections, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The board said the decision was based on the belief that the proposed expansion would not be a good fit for the rural, agricultural area.

McHenry County first granted the organization permission to build a chapel, convent, monastery and bakery on the property in 2005. Neighbors have complained about the operation, and more than 800 people signed a petition opposing the expansion in 2015.

Details of the settlement won’t be made public until after the board votes on the matter, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said.

The organization’s lawyer could not be reached for comment Thursday.

County records show that the organization acquired more property near Marengo in 2017.

Fraternite Notre Dame was founded in 1977 by French Bishop Jean Marie, who claims that he received divine inspiration from the Virgin Mary to help the disadvantaged. The order identifies as Catholic, but it is not recognized by the Vatican.

The McHenry County Board will meet at 10 a.m. Monday at the county Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock. A resolution to approve the settlement is on the agenda.

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