Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Michigan Township's Zoning Violates RLUIPA

Earlier this month, in New Life Ministries v. Charter Township of Mt. Morris,(ED MI, Sept. 7, 2006), a federal district court in Michigan granted summary judgment to New Life Ministries in its suit charging a Michigan township with violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The township's zoning ordinance does not permit buildings used for religious services in areas zoned C-2, even though it permits theaters, schools and various kinds of organizations in those areas. The court found that this violates 42 U.S.C. §2000cc(b)(1) that prohibits land use regulations that treat religious organizations unequally with secular institutions. The court held that the jurisdictional requirements imposed by RLUIPA for claims that land use regulations impose a substantial burden on free exercise do not apply to unequal treatment claims under the statute.