Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Justice Department Sues NY Village Under RLUIPA

The Associated Press yesterday reported on a suit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the village of Sufferin, New York, that tests the scope of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The suit involves the operation of "Shabbos House" at Good Samaritan Hospital in Sufferin. Since the nearest hotel is over three miles away, Bikur Cholim, Inc., an Orthodox Jewish service agency, operates a facility within walking distance in which Orthodox Jews can stay on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays in order to visit patients without violating religious rules against driving on those days. For six years the facility was on hospital grounds. However in 2004, in connection with expansion of the hospital, Shabbos House was moved across the street into a newly built house in an area zoned for single family dwellings. The village, however, refused an application for a building permit and zoning variance to permit the house to be used by up to 14 people. Village attorney, Terry Rice, said that Bikur Cholim did not claim a religious use when it asked for the zoning variance. The facility is operating pending a court decision.