Thursday, May 20, 2010

Court Again Rejects Housing Act Challenge To Homeless Shelter Activities

Last September, an Idaho federal district court held that the homeless shelter component of the Boise Rescue Mission is not a "dwelling" and therefore is not subject to the religious anti-discrimination provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act. It also held that both in the homeless shelter and in the Rescue Mission's second component-- a residential recovery program for individuals with drug or alcohol dependency-- the Religious Freedom Restoration Act bars application of the Fair Housing Act to prohibit the Rescue Mission's religious activities or religious favoritism of certain participants. (See prior posting.) Following that decision, plaintiffs filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, arguing that RFRA does not apply to suits between private parties, as opposed to a suit against the government. Last week, in Intermountain Fair Housing Council v. Boise Rescue Mission, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48065 (D ID, May 12, 2010), the same Idaho federal district court held it need not decide whether RFRA applies, since the Rescue Mission's activities are protected by the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment which also bars application of the Fair Housing Act here. It concluded, as it did in its prior decision, that some religious activities-- including those challenged here-- cannot be infringed even if the government has a compelling interest. [Thanks to Eugene Volokh via Religionlaw for the lead.]