Thursday, March 24, 2022

No RLUIPA Or Free Exercise Violation In Denying Sewer Service To Proposed Church Building

In Canaan Christian Church v. Montgomery County Maryland, (4th Cir., March 22, 2022), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Montgomery County did not violate a church's rights under RLUIPA or the 1st Amendment when it refused to extend public sewer lines to properties on which the church proposed to construct a new larger building for its congregation. The land use and water plans covering the properties provided that no public sewer service would be permitted (except for public health requirements). The church's purchase contracts for the properties were contingent on the county's approval of sewer service. The court said in part:

Because Appellants were well aware of the difficulties in development of the Property when they entered into the contract to purchase the Property, they could not have a reasonable expectation of religious land use. Further, the land use restrictions are rationally related to the government’s interest in protecting the region’s watershed.

A concurring opinion by Judge Richardson took issue with some of the analysis in the majority opinion.