Friday, March 30, 2018

Rabbi Has RLUIPA "Substantial Burden" Claim Standing

Congregation ARIEL Russian Community Synagogue, Inc. v. Baltimore County, (D MD, March 28, 2018), is a challenge to a zoning denial of a synagogue's plans to build a new synagogue building on property it has purchased and to use an existing house on the property as a parsonage for its rabbi.  The denial was challenged on various constitutional and statutory grounds, including under RLUIPA.  Defendants raised numerous procedural objections, including a claim that the congregation's rabbi lacks standing as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.  The court concluded that the rabbi has standing to bring a RLUIPA substantial burden challenge, saying in part:
Plaintiffs argue that Maryland recognizes oral lease agreements, and the Court ... can infer that there is an oral lease agreement between ARIEL and Rabbi Belinsky. As a result, Plaintiffs maintain that Rabbi Belinsky has a property interest in the Property. The Court agrees.
However the court held that the rabbi does not have standing to bring RLUIPA non-discrimination and equal terms claims because those provisions apply only to a religious "assembly or institution."