Sunday, June 04, 2017

6th Circuit: Religious School Not Substantially Burdened By Relocation Denial

In Livingston Christian Schools v. Genoa Charter Township, (6th Cir., June 2, 2017), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a RLUIPA claim by a Christian school that was denied a special use permit needed for it to relocate.  The school had concluded that remaining in its present location on a long-term basis would end in the dissolution of the school from lack of enrollment and income.  However the Court held as a matter of law that the denial of the permit did not impose a "substantial burden" on the school:
LCS has not alleged that any functions of its religious school were unable to be carried out on the [current] property. LCS focuses on increasing enrollment and raising revenue, but has not identified any religious activity—or even any traditionally secular one—that could not be performed at the [current] property.
The school had also complained that it was burdened because there was no other suitable property in Genoa Township for it to use. But the court disagreed, saying in part:
... [T]he boundaries of jurisdictions on the local-government level are often arbitrary in practice. Holding that a religious institution is substantially burdened any time that it cannot locate within such a small area—even if it could locate just across the border of the town limits—would be tantamount to giving religious institutions a free pass from zoning laws.