Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Court Upholds Jury's RLUIPA Verdict and Constitutionality of RLUIPA

In Rocky Mountain Christian Church v. Board of County Commissioners of Boulder County, Colorado, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30623 (D CO, March 30, 2009), a Colorado federal district court upheld a jury verdict handed down last year under RLUIPA in favor of Rocky Mountain Christian Church. Rejecting defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that the county violated the equal terms, substantial burden and unreasonable limitations provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in denying the church's special use application. In a lengthy decision, the court also upheld RLUIPA against an Establishment Clause challenge and a claim that the statute exceeds Congress' enforcement authority under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment.

In a companion decision issued the same day, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30614, the court issued a permanent injunction requiring approval of the church's 2004 special use application. However the court refused to issue an injunction barring the county from imposing any further substantial burden on the church's religious exercise, finding that an injunction merely broadly ordering obedience to the law is impermissible. (See prior related postings 1, 2.)