Archives: Substantial Burden

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Kenyan Church Claims Baltimore County’s Land Use Regulations Impose Substantial Burden

Last week, Jesus Christ is the Answer Ministries, Inc. (the “Church”), a nondenominational Christian church in Baltimore County, Maryland, and the Church’s pastor, Reverend Lucy Ware, filed suit against Baltimore County, Maryland and the Board of Appeals of Baltimore County (together, “Baltimore County”), challenging Baltimore County’s denial of the Church’s petition to use Rev. Ware’s … Continue Reading

Department of Justice and Bensalem Township, PA Settle Lawsuit Over Mosque Denial

The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has reached an agreement with Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania (“Township”), resolving allegations that the Township violated each of RLUIPA’s provisions when it denied a use variance application submitted by the Bensalem Masjid, Inc. (“Masjid”) to build a mosque.  We previously posted about this case here. The DOJ lawsuit arose … Continue Reading

Municipality Prevails in Dispute Over Personal Chapel

The City of Brier, Washington (City) has prevailed over claims that it violated the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and other federal law in a dispute over a variance application to construct a personal Serbian Orthodox chapel. The case was brought by Vladan Milosavlejevic and his company (the Plaintiff), who sought to … Continue Reading

Eruv Dispute Prompts Claims of Religious Discrimination Against New Jersey Township

Last month, Bergen Rockland Eruv Association, Inc. (BREA) sued the Township of Mahwah, New Jersey regarding a dispute over the expansion of an eruv.  According to the complaint, “[a]n eruv, under Jewish law, is a largely invisible unbroken demarcation of an area … created by, among other things, using existing telephone or utility poles and … Continue Reading

Seventh Circuit Rules No Religious Discrimination Based On Sprinkler Requirement

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed the decision of the Northern District of Illinois, finding against a faith-based recovery home’s claims of religious discrimination and Fair Housing Act violations stemming from a fire code dispute over the installation of a sprinkler system.  Our prior post regarding the case is available … Continue Reading

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 … Continue Reading

New Substantial Burden Framework in the Sixth Circuit; Court Upholds RLUIPA Verdict in Favor of Michigan Township

In an important decision for municipalities across the Country, the Sixth Circuit upheld a district court decision that found Genoa Charter Township (Township) did not violate federal law in denying a church’s application for a special use permit to operate a religious school. The take away from the case? Asking students to drive an extra … Continue Reading

City of Bayonne, New Jersey Sued Over Denial of Application to Build a Mosque

Last month, Bayonne Muslims, a New Jersey not-for-profit religious congregation, sued the City of Bayonne, New Jersey (the “City”), challenging the City’s denial of certain variances needed to construct a mosque.  Specifically, the City’s Zoning Board denied Bayonne Muslims’ application for a conditional use variance, a parking bulk variance, and additional setback and buffer variances. … Continue Reading

Jewish School’s RLUIPA Claims Are Ripe For Adjudication

A federal court in the District of New Jersey has determined that claims asserted by the Congregation Kollel, Inc. (“Congregation”) against the Township of Howell, New Jersey (“Township”), based on the allegedly improper denial of a land use permit to build a Jewish educational facility, are ripe for review. The Congregation’s Proposed Plans The Congregation … Continue Reading

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. Background Since 1995, ICN has operated a religious school, the … Continue Reading

DOJ’s RLUIPA Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss

A federal court in Pennsylvania has denied Bensalem Township’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice challenging the Township’s denial of a use variance for a mosque.  The lawsuit alleges violations of the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and is in addition to a separate lawsuit … Continue Reading

DOJ Claims that County’s Denial of a Sewer Permit Violates RLUIPA

Guest Post by Derek Valentine Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department (“DOJ”) filed suit in District Court for the Western District of Virginia against the Culpeper County Virginia Board of Supervisors alleging it acted in a discriminatory manor by denying a permanent pump and haul septic system permit for a proposed mosque. The Islamic … Continue Reading

Port Jervis, NY Sued by DOJ; Settles Two Days Later

The City of Port Jervis, New York has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that the City’s revision to its zoning code violated the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).  In August 2015, Goodwill Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Church) finalized a contract to purchase … Continue Reading

Facial RLUIPA Claims Against Mobile, AL Dismissed

Guest Post by Tavo T. True-Alcala Earlier this year, the Thai Meditation Association of Alabama and several individual plaintiffs (“the Center”) filed suit against the City of Mobile, Alabama (“the City”), alleging that the denial of its application to operate a meditation center in a residential area was a violation of its rights under RLUIPA on three … Continue Reading

RLUIPA Case of the Year? Minnesota Municipality Uses RLUIPA’s Safe Harbor Provision to Avoid Liability

In an important decision for municipalities across the country, a federal court in Minnesota has recently ruled that actions taken under RLUIPA’s “safe harbor” provision absolved a local government of possible RLUIPA violations.  This is especially noteworthy because few courts have considered the safe harbor provision.  According to the court, the City of St. Michael’s … Continue Reading

Ocean, NJ ordered to allow Yeshiva boarding school

In January of this year, Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov, Inc. (the “Yeshiva”) filed a 79-page complaint in federal court against the Township of Ocean, New Jersey, and the Township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (the “Township) following the denial of an application to develop a yeshiva with boarding facilities for 96 male students between the ages … Continue Reading

Buddhist Meditation Center Sues Mobile, AL

The Thai Meditation Association of Alabama and several individual plaintiffs (the “Center”) have filed suit against the City of Mobile, Alabama, its  Planning Commission, and City Council (“Mobile”) after the Planning Commission denied the Center’s application to construct and operate a meditation center intended to accommodate Buddhist practices on a 6.7-acre parcel (the “Property”).  The complaint, … Continue Reading

Hundreds Erupt in Elation After Sterling Heights Mosque Denial

In the RLUIPA Round-Up post, we noted that the City of Sterling Heights, Michigan, is facing a federal lawsuit following its denial of the American Islamic Community Center’s (Center) zoning application to build a 20,500 square foot mosque.  The Center began searching for property it could purchase and construct a mosque, especially in the City … Continue Reading

California Federal Court: Is Leasing to a Church Religious Exercise?

The Scinto Foundation (Foundation) supports religious organizations “by having activities which are similar to [religious activities] and/or by giving them money, or donating services ….”  The Foundation sued the City of Orange, California, claiming violations of rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and state law, because the City “deprived the … Continue Reading

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 … Continue Reading

U.S. Department of Justice Issues RLUIPA Report

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a new report on its involvement in RLUIPA cases.  The report, “Update on the Justice Department’s Enforcement of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act: 2010-2016,” is a follow-up to the DOJ’s 2010 report, and is an important read for any municipal lawyer.  One of the main take-aways … Continue Reading

Department of Justice Sues Bensalem Township, PA Over Mosque Denial

On July 21, the United States Department of Justice sued Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania, in federal court alleging violations of each of RLUIPA’s provisions following the Township’s 2014 denial of a variance application submitted by the Bensalem Masjid, Inc. (Masjid) to build a mosque.  While it is always noteworthy when the DOJ sues a municipality over … Continue Reading

Sikh Temple files suit after Oyster Bay, NY ordered it to stop work and then required SEQRA review

Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center, Inc. (the “Temple”), on June 29, 2016 in the Eastern District of New York, sued the Town of Oyster Bay, New York, the Town Board, and several Town Officials (together, the “Defendants”) after the Defendants halted the Temple’s construction of a house of worship, known as a gurdwara. The complaint … Continue Reading

Michigan Township Prevails on Federal Religious Discrimination Claims

A federal court in Michigan has ruled that Genoa Charter Township did not violate federal law in denying a church’s application for a special use permit to operate a religious school.  Livingston Christian Schools (LSC) sought to use property owned by another church, Brighton Church of the Nazarene (Nazarene Church), for its religious school.  LSC … Continue Reading
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