Wednesday, November 16, 2005

RLUIPA Suit Filed To Expand Tent City

Yesterday's Seattle Times reports on an unusual RLUIPA case. The Seattle, Washington Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE) operates Tent City for homeless individuals unable to find places in traditional shelters. Tent City 4 is to be hosted, beginning today, by Bellevue, Washington's Temple B'nai Torah. However, Bellevue City Council has adopted strict provisions for homeless camps, regulating everything from identification checks to the number of toilets. Earlier this month, city Planning Director Matt Terry issued a permit for Tent City 4's stay at the Temple, but limited it to 60 days instead of the 90 days requested by the Temple. Also, because the Temple was not providing enough toilets and showers, the city limited Tent City to 40 people instead of the requested 100. (Full text of application and city's decision, and background information.)

Concerned about turning people away and uprooting them too soon, the Temple sued claiming that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act requires the city to grant the its requested permit. Supporting its religious freedom claim, James Mirel, the Temple's senior rabbi, said, "The whole idea of reaching out to the poor and needy is part of our Jewish tradition."