Friday, September 30, 2016

Two RLUIPA Suits Over Rezoning For Islamic School Are Settled

According to the Ann Arbor News, Pittsfield Township, Michigan yesterday reached agreements to settle two related RLUIPA lawsuits challenging the township's refusal to rezone a vacant parcel of land for construction of a pre-K through 12 school by the Michigan Islamic Academy. One suit was brought by the Justice Department (see prior posting). The Consent Order (full text), which must still be approved by the court, is described in a DOJ press release:
As part of the settlement, the township has agreed to permit MIA to construct a school on the vacant parcel of land, to treat the school and all other religious groups equally and to publicize its non- discrimination policies and practices [by signage and on the Internet].  The township also agreed that its leaders and various township employees will attend training on the requirements of RLUIPA.  In addition, the county will report periodically to the Justice Department.
The other suit was brought by the Michigan Islamic Academy (see prior posting).  In settling that suit, Pittsfield Township's insurers will pay $1.7 million in damages and attorneys' fees.  CAIR-MI described this as "one of the largest-ever RLUIPA settlements."  As part of the settlement, Michigan Islamic Academy agreed to add a residential development with "significant landscape buffering" between the school and adjacent residential lots.