Thursday, March 24, 2016

RLUIPA Challenge To Fire Safety Rules By Faith-Based Organization Fails

Affordable Recovery Housing v. City of Blue Island, (ED IL, March 23, 2016), involves a challenge to the action of officials of a Chicago suburb who evicted residents of a recovery home that used faith based methods to treat drug and alcohol abuse.  The city acted because the facility failed to comply with safety regulations requiring fire sprinklers in buildings that house overnight guests. In the case, an Illinois federal district court held that the city's action did not violate various provisions of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act nor similar provisions of  the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, saying in part:
Plaintiff argues that Blue Island’s eviction of its 73 residents substantially burdened its ability to exercise its religion by effectively rendering religious exercise impracticable. However, the City’s eviction was pursuant to its fire safety code, not its zoning ordinance. Because Blue Island was not “impos[ing] or implement[ing] a land use regulation”..., this action falls outside of the regulatory scope of RLUIPA and IRFRA.
The court also rejected plaintiff's free exercise claim, saying that any burden is merely "the incidental effect of a neutral, generally applicable, and otherwise valid regulation...."