Thursday, September 17, 2015

Denial of Use Permit Did Not Violate RLUIPA

In Livingston Christian Schools v. Genoa Charter Township, (ED MI, Sept. 15, 2015), a Michigan federal district court denied a temporary restraining order to a Christian school that wants to move to property owned by the Brighton Church of the Nazarene.  The township board denied the Church's application to amend its special use permit to allow the school to operate on the property because of objections from neighbors about traffic and non-compliance with the current special use permit. The school claims this violate its rights under RLUIPA.  The court held that the school had not shown a likelihood of success on that claim:
LCS cannot meet its burden in establishing that the denial has more than a minimal impact on its free exercise of religion. The township’s denial of the church’s special use permit does not preclude either the church ... or LCS from freely exercising their religious tenets. The church is free to continue its normal operations pursuant to its existing special use permit. Similarly, LCS is free to continue operating as a religious school, and it has a building in Pinckney that it owns and has been using as the location for its school for the past nine years. Moreover, LCS recently found a second location from which it can operate. The fact that LCS has “ready alternatives” more than sufficient to meet its religious needs despite the township’s denial makes it unlikely that it has suffered a substantial burden on its free exercise of religion.