In August, we posted about the case Parish of Jefferson v. Daughters of St. Paul Inc. (La. App. Ct. 2013) (click here to read that post). In that case, the plaintiff, a non-profit corporation with a community of religious women who share their religious beliefs through media, claimed that a Jefferson Parish Ordinance, which regulated the Parish’s rights-of-way in the Commercial Parkway Overlay Zone and required that those using the Parish’s rights-of-way compensate it for such use, violated RLUIPA. Daughters of St. Paul operated a bookstore and used Parish land directly in front of its building for parking, but did not compensate the Parish for such use as required by the Parish Ordinance. The Parish sued Daughters of St. Paul requesting that the trial court order Daughters of St. Paul compensate it for use of the right-of-way.
Daughters of St. Paul alleged that the Parish Ordinance violated RLUIPA’s substantial burden provision because it made the use of its building “effectively impractical,” as the choice of leasing the right-of-way from the Parish or forfeiting the use of the right-of-way “brings significant pressure that directly coerces it to conform its behavior or effectively bars it from using its building on the property in the exercise of its religion.” Although Daughters of St. Paul further alleged that it would be forced to change its religious practice by having to either start charging for certain services to increase its income or decrease the services and goods it provides pursuant to its religious beliefs, the Louisiana Appellate Court found that the Parish Ordinance did not substantially burden its religious exercise because (1) the financial burden of leasing the right-of-way did not infringe on Daughters of St. Pauls’ religious exercise; (2) the inconvenience of having to find alternate parking and having to possibly increase its revenue did not rise to the level of substantial burden under RLUIPA; and (3) ingress and egress to the bookstore would not be prohibited, only the parking spaces in front of the building would be prohibited for the parking of vehicles.
On June 14, 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Daughters of St. Pauls’ petition for certiorari to review the decision of the Appellate Court. Thereafter, Daughters of St. Paul petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the decision and presented the following question for review:
Where the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act is applicable to the petitioner’s use of the Pauline Book Store, does the enforcement of a municipal ordinance known as the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance for Commercial Parkway Overlay Zone impose a substantial burden on the petitioners’ exercise of religion, where the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that denial of access to customers and communicants of the religious bookstore and chapel of the petitioners, other than being dropped off, is not a substantial burden under the provisions of RLUIPA?
On November 12, 2013, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the case (Docket No. 13-311). To date, the United States Supreme Court has not reviewed a RLUIPA case in the land use context.