Friday, June 19, 2009

Texas High Court Says State RFRA Applies To Zoning Restrictions

Today in Barr v. City of Sinton, (TX Sup. Ct., June 19, 2009), the Texas Supreme Court held that the strict scrutiny standard in the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to zoning ordinances. It went on to hold that the city of Sinton's ordinance that banned correctional or rehabilitation facilities within 1000 feet of residential areas, schools, parks or places of worship infringed the rights of a halfway house for recently released prisoners operated by a religious ministry. The ordinance effectively barred the halfway house from the entire city. In response to the city's argument that plaintiffs' free exercise of religion was not involved, the court said: "the fact that a halfway house can be secular does not mean that it cannot be religious." [Thanks to Douglas Laycock via Religionlaw for the lead.]