Friday, February 08, 2019

4th Circuit Allows Church To Move Ahead With Challenges To Zoning Denial

In Jesus Christ Is the Answer Ministries, Inc. v. Baltimore County, Maryland, (4th Cir., Feb. 7, 2019), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing a Maryland federal district court, refused to dismiss a church's complaint regarding zoning denials that prevented it from operating a church on land that its pastor had purchased. The court held that plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged a substantial burden on their religious practice and discrimination based on religious denomination under RLUIPA. The court said in part:
Particularly relevant to this case, a government decision influenced by community members’ religious bias is unlawful, even if the government decisionmakers display no bias themselves.
The court also vacated the lower court's dismissal of plaintiffs' free exercise, equal protection and state constitutional claims. [Thanks to Will Wsser via Religionlaw for the lead.]