The Planning and Law Division of the American Planning Association is pleased to host the upcoming webcast Planning, Law, and Plain English on November 1, 2018 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT. Registration for individual PLD members is $20 and $45 for non-members. Registration for two or more people at one computer is $140.
Evan J. Seeman is a lawyer in Robinson+Cole's Hartford office and focuses his practice on land use, real estate, environmental, and regulatory matters, representing local governments, developers and advocacy groups. He has spoken and written about RLUIPA, and was a lead author of an amicus curiae brief at the petition stage before the United States Supreme Court in a RLUIPA case entitled City of San Leandro v. International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Evan serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of the APA's Planning & Law Division. He also serves as the Chair of the Planning & Zoning Section of the Connecticut Bar Association's Young Lawyers Section, and is the former Co-Chair of its Municipal Law Section. He has been named to the Connecticut Super Lawyers® list as a Rising Star in the area of Land Use Law for 2013 and 2014. He received his B.A. in political science and Russian studies (with honors) from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was selected as the President's Fellow in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. Evan received his Juris Doctor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he served on the Connecticut Law Review. While in law school, he interned with the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General in the environmental department, and served as a judicial intern for the judges of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court. Following law school, Evan clerked for the Honorable F. Herbert Gruendel of the Connecticut Appellate Court.
Sixth Circuit Creates New RLUIPA Equal Terms Test Based On “Legitimate Zoning Criteria”
Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a decision in Tree of Life Christian Schools v. City of Upper Arlington concerning a religious school’s RLUIPA equal terms challenge. The decision is the third time in the past five years that the Sixth Circuit has considered the dispute (our prior posts about the case are available here and here). The recent decision is noteworthy because the Sixth Circuit created a new test (or, at least, a new name for an existing test) to examine claims brought under RLUIPA’s equal terms provision. Under the equal terms provision, “No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(b)(1). Courts considering equal terms claims have struggled with what constitutes “equal” treatment. The Sixth Circuit noted that “This language provides no guideposts for what Congress meant by the term ‘equal.’” According to the Sixth Circuit, a plaintiff may prevail on an equal terms challenge if it identifies a nonreligious use that is similarly situated to a proposed religious use based on “legitimate zoning criteria” with respect to the zoning regulation at issue. The Sixth Circuit’s decision is also significant because it determined that revenue generation, even in the form of taxes levied against property users and their employees, is a legitimate zoning criteria. In applying this standard, the Sixth Circuit rejected Tree of Life Christian School’s (“TOL”) equal terms challenge for failing to establish that a nonreligious use was treated better than TOL’s proposed religious school.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Creates New RLUIPA Equal Terms Test Based On “Legitimate Zoning Criteria”
Court Denies Summary Judgment in “Integral Yoga” RLUIPA Dispute in Hawaii
Back in 2015, we first reported about a RLUIPA case pitting the County of Maui, Hawaii against practitioners of “Integral Yoga” (prior post available here). Integral Yoga is a worldwide religious organization established in the U.S. in 1966 that believes “the goal and the birthright of all individuals is to realize the spiritual unity behind the diversity throughout creation and to live harmoniously as members of ‘one universal family.’” Maui’s Planning and Zoning Commission (the “Commission”) has repeatedly denied the efforts of Frederick R. Honig, also known as Swami Waroopananda (“Honig”), and Spirit of Aloha Temple (the “Temple”) to use an 11-acre site on Haumana Road in Haiku, Hawaii (the “Property”) for Integral Yoga and other related religious uses. Honig (a Senior Minister of the Temple) describes the Property, which is zoned for agricultural and conservation purposes, as the “most perfect property” in the world. A federal court issued a ruling earlier this summer denying the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, meaning the case may be headed for trial.
Continue Reading Court Denies Summary Judgment in “Integral Yoga” RLUIPA Dispute in Hawaii
Church Ministering To Homeless Secures Preliminary Injunction Against St. Paul, Minn. For Likely RLUIPA And Free Speech Violations
A federal court in Minnesota has issued a preliminary injunction in favor of a local church ministering to the homeless, ruling that the church was likely to prevail on its RLUIPA substantial burden and First Amendment free speech claims. The injunction will prevent St. Paul, Minnesota from enforcing 2 of the 14 conditions it imposed on the church’s use of its property to aid the needy. The church, First Lutheran Church (“First Lutheran”), operates in a residential area of St. Paul and, for over the past decade, has supported the poor and homeless in accordance with its religious beliefs. Among the services provided by First Lutheran are Sunday breakfasts to more than 300 people, as well as a “wellness center” one night a week offering free medical services, mental health counseling, clothing, blankets and houseware, and a hot meal. In 2017, First Lutheran partnered with another organization assisting St. Paul’s homeless as a day shelter and community center, Listening House of St. Paul (“Listening House”), and allowed Listening House to relocate to the church property. The partnership allowed First Lutheran to expand its services beyond the local neighborhood to St. Paul generally.
Continue Reading Church Ministering To Homeless Secures Preliminary Injunction Against St. Paul, Minn. For Likely RLUIPA And Free Speech Violations
Nuns Lose Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Challenge
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled against a Roman Catholic group challenging the use of their land in connection with an interstate natural gas pipeline. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ (“Adorers”) is “an ecclesial group of women living in community … whose religious practice includes protecting and preserving creation, which they believe is a revelation of God.” They believe that “God calls humans to treasure land as a gift of beauty and sustenance that should not be used in an excessive or harmful way.” The Adorers own land in Columbia, Pennsylvania used to sponsor the St. Anne’s Retirement Community and for growing crops by local farmers. In February 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) issued an order authorizing the construction and operation of 199.5 miles of new pipeline in Pennsylvania connecting to existing pipelines running to South Carolina. The pipeline project will reportedly supply gas to more than 7 million American homes. The Adorers’ land was to be included as part of the pipeline project, and FERC issued an order authorizing the taking of the Adorers’ property by eminent domain for the project, if necessary.
Continue Reading Nuns Lose Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Challenge
Upcoming Webinar – Due Process in Zoning Hearings
The Planning and Law Division of the American Planning Association is pleased to host the upcoming webcast Rules of the Game: A Framework for Fair & Effective Zoning Hearings on July 26, 2018. Registration for individuals is $20 for PLD members and $45 for non-members. Registration for two or more people at one computer is…
Second Circuit: Islamic Group’s RLUIPA Claims Not Ripe Under Williamson County
The Second Circuit recently issued a Summary Order in Islamic Community Center for Mid Westchester v. City of Yonkers Landmark Preservation Board (2d Cir. 2018) detailing what zoning relief a plaintiff must seek at the local level before filing suit. The case involved the Islamic Community Center of Mid Westchester’s (ICCMW) claims that it had been the target of religious discrimination when the property it purchased to develop with a mosque was designated as a landmark by the City of Yonkers Landmark Preservation Board. Four months later, ICCMW sued, alleging the landmark designation violated its First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion and RLUIPA.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (also known as “ripeness”), since ICCMW did not apply for a certificate of appropriateness to develop the property as a mosque. …
Continue Reading Second Circuit: Islamic Group’s RLUIPA Claims Not Ripe Under Williamson County
Supreme Court Says Bon Voyage To Trump Travel Ban Challenges
Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its highly anticipated decision in Trump v. Hawaii, 585 U.S. ___ (2018) regarding Presidential Proclamation No. 9645, otherwise known as the “Travel Ban.” To the dismay of many, the Supreme Court upheld the Travel Ban in spite of challenges that the President (a) did not have authority to issue the ban under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and (b) violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by targeting and discriminating against Muslims. One of the major takeaways from the majority’s opinion is the extreme deference to be afforded the President when it comes to national security matters. In many other situations, extrinsic evidence regarding religious animus (in the form of statements by government officials) may be given substantial weight when considering an Establishment Clause challenge. But here, such statements by the President were largely trumped by national security concerns.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Says Bon Voyage To Trump Travel Ban Challenges
Floating Home Owner Scores Second Supreme Court Victory Against Riviera Beach, FL
Today the Supreme Court issued an important decision in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, 585 U.S. ___ (2018). The case does not involve land use or even free exercise of religion. But it is still noteworthy because it deals with local government decision-making and citizens’ free speech rights under the First Amendment. Most local governments have a handful (or more) of harsh critics who attend virtually all legislative meetings, are often the first to arrive at meetings and the first to scribe their names to the public comment sign-up sheet. The right to speak out against and petition the government is protected speech under the First Amendment. The facts giving rise to today’s decision involve the City of Riviera Beach’s arrest of Fane Lozman, who has appeared and spoken at more than 200 City meetings since 2006. Lozman was arrested in November 2006 while speaking critically of government officials during the public comment portion of a City Council meeting for violating its rules of procedure by discussing issues unrelated to the City and refusing to leave the podium. Video of Lozman’s arrest at the meeting is available here. The Supreme Court framed the issue before it as “the intersection of principles that define when arrests are lawful and principles that prohibit the government from retaliating against a person for having exercised the right to free speech.”…
Continue Reading Floating Home Owner Scores Second Supreme Court Victory Against Riviera Beach, FL
DOJ Rolls Out “Place to Worship” RLUIPA Initiative; Sues New Jersey Borough
Earlier this week, the Department of Justice announced its “Place to Worship Initiative” to help protect houses of worship and religious institutions against discrimination in the local land use process. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions announced the new initiative and stated that President Trump “is an unwavering defender of the right of free exercise [of religion], and under his leadership, the Department of Justice is standing up for the rights of all Americans.” The full statement reads:
The Constitution doesn’t just protect freedom to worship in private – it protects the public exercise of religious belief, including where people worship together. Under the laws of this country, government cannot discriminate against people based on their religion – not in law enforcement, not in grant-making, not in hiring, and not in local zoning laws. President Trump is an unwavering defender of the right of free exercise, and under his leadership, the Department of Justice is standing up for the rights of all Americans. By raising awareness about our legal rights, the Place to Worship Initiative will help us bring more civil rights cases, win more cases, and prevent discrimination from happening in the first place.
Continue Reading DOJ Rolls Out “Place to Worship” RLUIPA Initiative; Sues New Jersey Borough