Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Church Camp Loses Challenge To Zoning Decision On Neighboring Dairy Farm

In House of Prayer Ministries, Inc. v. Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals, (IN App., Jan. 16, 2018), an Indiana state appeals court rejected a challenge by a church summer camp to a zoning board decision granting a special exception to a dairy farm to operate a concentrated animal feeding operation one-half mile from the summer camp.  The church argued in part that the grant of the special exception substantially burdens its religious exercise by "imperiling the health of the children" at its camp.  The court first held that the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act is not available to the church here because a RLUIPA claim can be raised only by a person with a property interest in the land that is regulated.  RLUIPA does not extend to other property that is merely affected by a land use decision as to neighboring land.

The court went on to hold that Indiana's state Religious Freedom Restoration Act was also not violated:
The [Board of Zoning Appeal's] apparent assessment that House of Prayer will not be substantially burdened in the exercise of its religion by the grant of the special exception is supported by substantial evidence.
Indiana Lawyer reports on the decision.