Monday, October 08, 2007

Freemasonry Is "Religion" Under RLUIPA, But Masonic Temple Loses RLUIPA Claim

In Scottish Rite Cathedral Association of Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles, (CA Ct. App., Oct. 3, 2007), a California court of appeals rejected a RLUIPA challenge by the Los Angeles Scottish Rite Cathedral Association to the revocation of its certificate of occupancy for its Masonic Temple. The appellate court rejected the trial court's holding that Freemasonry is not a religion. The appellate court found "no principled way to distinguish the earnest pursuit of these [Masonic] principles ... from more widely acknowledged modes of religious exercise." However the court held that the Masonic Temple, which was now largely being rented out for commercial as well as non-profit events, was not protected under RLUIPA. It concluded: "a burden on a commercial enterprise used to fund a religious organization does not constitute a substantial burden on 'religious exercise' within the meaning of RLUIPA."