Monday, December 26, 2011

RLUIPA Claim Dismissed On Ripeness Grounds

In Guatay Christian Fellowship v. County of San Diego, (9th Cir., Dec. 23, 2011), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 53-page opinion, dismissed on ripeness grounds a church's RLUIPA land use lawsuit.  Since 1986 the church had held services in a recreation building in a San Diego County trailer park.  In 2008, the county notified the trailer park of numerous land use violations, including illegal conversion of the recreation hall into a church.  The county said that a Modification of Use Permit (MUP) was required to use the building for religious assembly. Without filing for an MUP, the church brought suit alleging violations of RLUIPA as well as violations of the 1st and 14th Amendments.  The 9th Circuit said: "We cannot determine if the Church has suffered a 'substantial burden' under RLUIPA until at least one Use Permit application has been submitted." The court also rejected plaintiffs' constitutional claims.