An interesting decision regarding RLUIPA and COVID-19 emergency public health orders was recently issued by a federal court in Missouri. Recall that in the land use context, RLUIPA applies only to “land use regulations.” The statute defines land use regulations as “a zoning or landmarking law, or the application of such law, that limits or
Land Use Regulation
RLUIPA Does Not Apply to Uninsured Amish Roofer Repairing Homeowner’s Damaged Roof
A federal court in New York issued an important decision that should serve as a reminder about the reach of RLUIPA. The case involves a homeowner’s request to have an Amish roofer repair her damaged roof. In April 2018, Dorthy Frances Ripley’s home was damaged by high winds and she hired a local Amish roofer, Emmanuel Roffer, to replace her roof. Mr. Roffer told Ms. Ripley that he could not perform the work because he did not have insurance, which was required by the City of Olean, New York but prohibited by his religion. Ms. Ripley tried to purchase insurance for her roofer, but was informed by her insurance agent that she was not allowed to do so. Ms. Ripley sued the City and alleged that the City violated “the religious customs of Emmanuel Roffer, whose Amish beliefs … forbid him to buy insurance of any kind, or to obtain government-issued permits or licenses.” She also claimed that being denied “the benefit of having Amish laborers replace the roof on her home … is a violation of her land use rights,” and she sought unspecified damages.
Continue Reading RLUIPA Does Not Apply to Uninsured Amish Roofer Repairing Homeowner’s Damaged Roof
Church Ministering to Homeless/Needy Can Proceed with Most of its Religious Discrimination Claims
A United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee recently ruled that Layman Lessons Church and Welcome Baptist Church, Inc. (“Layman Lessons”) can move forward with most, but not all, of its religious discrimination claims against Metropolitan Government of Nashville/Davidson County (“Nashville”). The dispute arose in 2018, when Layman Lessons claims that Nashville used local building and zoning laws to prevent it from ministering to the poor and homeless on commercially zoned property located at 1455 Neelys Bend Road, Madison, Tennessee (“Property”). Layman Lessons provides food, clothing, shelter, a mobile shower and laundry center, transportation, life skills training, and spiritual and recovery counseling to the poor and homeless. It alleges that Nashville discriminated against it by refusing to allow it to use the Property to serve the poor and homeless in a variety of ways, including by delaying its religious use of the Property; preventing mobile food pantries in the paved parking area; issuing fabricated stop work orders, even though Layman Lessons was not violating any law; recommending demolition of Layman Lessons’ storage barn; refusing to correct an illegal storm water pipe that flooded the Property; and interfering with Layman Lessons’ existing contract with its landlord to conduct religious activities, operate mobile food pantries; and provide laundry services to the homeless.
Continue Reading Church Ministering to Homeless/Needy Can Proceed with Most of its Religious Discrimination Claims
New Jersey Islamic Group’s Religious Discrimination Claims May Proceed, Rules Federal Court
Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) reported on the case of Garden State Islamic Center v. City of Vineland. The case involves Garden State Islamic Center’s plans to build a mosque. The United States filed a Statement of Interest in the case to address the issue of what qualifies as a “land use regulation” under RLUIPA. RLUIPA applies only to land use regulations, which the statute defines as “a zoning or landmarking law, or the application of such a law, that limits or restricts a claimant’s use or development of land (including a structure affixed to land), if the claimant has an ownership, leasehold, easement, servitude, or other property interest in the regulated land or a contract or option to acquire such an interest.” The issue centered around whether a municipal sewage regulation was a land use regulation invoking RLUIPA.
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Proposed Law in Woodbury, New York Would Require Permits for Eruvin
The Village Board for the Village of Woodbury, New York (“Village”) is considering a new law that would require a permit in order to erect or maintain an eruv in any public street, right-of-way or easement. For those not familiar with an eruv, it is an unbroken demarcation of an area, often created by connecting existing telephone or utility poles and wires, that allows Jews to carry or push objects from place to place on the Sabbath and Yom Kippur. A number of eruvs have been erected as the Orthodox Jewish community has grown in Woodbury over recent years.
Continue Reading Proposed Law in Woodbury, New York Would Require Permits for Eruvin
CAFO Stinks, but Not a Substantial Burden
Do 1,400 cattle and 17.4 million gallons of cow waste in open-air lagoons, upwind and a half a mile from a religious youth summer camp, impose a substantial burden? As unpleasant as a concentrated animal feed operation (“CAFO”) may be, a neighboring religious organization cannot use RLUIPA as a shield to prevent its operation.
To Protect Wildlife, or Religious Freedom?
That was the question before the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners earlier this month.
The conflict arose as a result of John and Stephanie Shepherd’s continued attempts to host weddings on their property in Deschutes County, Oregon (the “County”), which is zoned for exclusive farm use (“EFU”) and subject to a wildlife protection overlay zone…
Requiring Repair, Rather than Demolition, For Church’s Violations of Municipality’s Property Maintenance Code May Impose A Substantial Burden
An Illinois appellate court reversed a lower court’s dismissal of RLUIPA claims asserted by the First United Methodist Church of West Dundee (the “Church”) against the Village of West Dundee, Illinois (the “Village”), finding that the Church sufficiently stated claims under the substantial burden and equal terms clauses.
The case concerns a historic building located…
Nashville Islamic Center’s Religious Discrimination Claims Dismissed
A federal district court in Tennessee recently dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction a claim by the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) lawsuit challenging a Tennessee property tax exemption law on religious freedom grounds. Please see our previous blog post about the case here.
Since 1995, ICN has operated a religious school,…
Federal Court Rules Alabama Sex Offender Law is “Land Use Regulation” Under RLUIPA
We previously reported on the case Martin v. Houston (M.D. Alabama 2016), in which the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama considered a pastor’s religious discrimination claims involving the state legislature’s enactment and enforcement of a sex offender law that prevented the pastor’s transitional housing program. The law in question (Alabama Code…