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Constitutional Law

Local Government Forced to Issue Bonds to Pay RLUIPA Legal Fees

A New York case is the latest example of why local governments should proceed carefully in RLUIPA litigation to avoid costly outcomes. In the case of the Village of Pomona, NY (Pomona), a RLUIPA case that has dragged on for more than a decade – bouncing from the district court to the circuit court of appeals and back – has resulted in the government being responsible for $2.5 million of the pr

SCOTUS Sides with Amish Community on RLUIPA Land Use Claim

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has finally reached the merits of a RLUIPA land use matter – sort of. To the extent the court touched on the RLUIPA questions in Mast v. Fillmore County on July 2nd, the overarching message from at least one justice was clear: RLUIPA protections are broad and local governments can infringe on religious liberties only as a matter of last resort.What

Amish Community Waiting to See if SCOTUS Will Review RLUIPA Claim

It appears as though another term of the Supreme Court will close without the high court evaluating a religious land use claim under The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). An Amish community from Minnesota had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether state laws requiring the community to install septic tank systems in their homes violates RLUIPA. However, the Co

Maryland Church Awarded $1.1m in RLUIPA Verdict Over County Environmental Considerations

For more than 20 years now, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) has sought to ensure houses of worship are treated the same as similar secular land uses, regardless of other considerations or laws that might be implicated. A recent case out of Maryland reaffirms this concept, as a Baptist church prevailed in May on its Equal Terms claim and won permission to build its

Federal Government, New Jersey Town Reach Settlement of RLUIPA Case One Day After It Was Filed

In most Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) cases, the plaintiff is a religious organization and the defendant is a local government. However, there are some instances when the religious organization gains the support of a second, powerful plaintiff - the U.S. Department of Justice. That was the case in a RLUIPA matter out of New Jersey, where the presence of the federal

Supreme Court Issues RLUIPA Opinion Related to Prisoners; Still Has Not Reached Land Use Issue

It was just last year that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA, celebrated its 20th anniversary. During that time, the U.S. Supreme Court has never issued a substantive opinion on a religious land use matter based on RLUIPA. However, the Supreme Court has now issued an order implicating the other aspect of RLUIPA – institutionalized persons – when it ordered tha

Church Offering Parking Lot To Beachgoers Is Free Exercise of Religion Protected By RLUIPA

A Florida court held that a church, as part of its religious exercise, can offer its parking lot as an access point to a nearby beach to general members of the public. Pass-A-Grille Beach Community Church, just outside St. Petersburg, Florida, argued that the local government’s attempts to restrict the church from allowing such access put a substantial burden on its sincerely held religious beli

New York Village Settles One RLUIPA Suit, Faces New One From DOJ

A New York village settled one lawsuit alleging violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) while the U.S. Department of Justice filed a new, larger lawsuit against the village alleging a broad, ongoing practice of discriminating against religious land uses. The federal government’s lawsuit alleges that the village has a 30-year history of such discrimination

Oakland County Violated Constitution by Keeping Tax Sale Proceeds

County governments that sell properties at auction to satisfy unpaid tax debts commit an unconstitutional taking when they keep the surplus proceeds of those sales beyond the amount of taxes owed. Relying in part on law from 800 years ago, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a ruling on July 17, 2020 that property owners’ interests in the surplus proceeds of any such sales remain even after the au

Federal Courts Issue Rulings on 1st Amendment Rights During COVID-19

Most state governments have responded to COVID-19 with executive orders and laws that restrict the public from certain activities, including religious assembly. Such limitations on activities protected by the First Amendment have resulted in a flurry of lawsuits – at least one that reached the Supreme Court – alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment violations that raise a critical question: Ho