Thursday, September 20, 2018

In 6th Circuit: Christian School Loses RLUIPA Equal Terms Challenge

In Tree of Life Christian Schools v. City of Upper Arlington, Ohio, (6th Cir., Sept. 18, 2018), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision held that a private Christian school had failed to establish a prima facie case under the "equal terms" provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  At issue was the prohibition in Upper Arlington's zoning master plan of the operation of schools-- both secular and religious-- in the area zoned as an office and research center district.  The majority held that the ordinance is "no more onerous to Tree of Life than it is to nonreligious entities that generate comparably small amounts of revenue for the City."  Judge Thapar dissented, arguing that the majority was incorrect in holding that comparator institutions under RLUIPA's equal terms provision must be "similarly situated" in regard to legitimate zoning criteria. Columbus Dispatch reports on the decision. [Thanks to Tom Rutledge for the lead.]