The Religous Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and Zoning in the Inland Empire

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

What is the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)?

RLUIPA was enacted by Congress in 2000.  RLUIPA states, regarding land use,  that the government may not “impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden” on religious exercise unless the government demonstrates that the imposition of that regulation (and its accompanying “burden”) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest,” and is the “least restrictive means of furthering that interest.”  42 United States Code section 2000cc.  RLUIPA broadly defines the term “religious exercise,” to include “the use, building, or conversion of real property for the purpose of religious exercise.”  42 United States Code section 2000cc-5(7)(B).   The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that “for a land use regulation to impose a ‘substantial burden’ it must be ‘oppressive’ to a ‘significantly great’ extent.  That is, a ‘substantial burden’ on ‘religious exercise’ must impose a significantly great restriction or onus upon such exercise.”  San Jose Christian College v. City of Morgan Hill (9th Cir. 2004) 360 F.3d 1024, 1034.

RLUIPA also states that “no government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.”  42 United States Code section 2000cc(b)(1).  The “equal terms” section requires the government to treat religious assembly uses in the same way it would a non-religious use.

RLUIPA adds a layer of federal regulation to local Inland Empire government’s land use authority.  In discretionary land use decisions involving religious uses, local governments need to be familiar with the requirements of RLUIPA.  When I was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, RLUIPA was an issue that arose from time to time in City Council and Planning Commission land use decision-making.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708
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About Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law
Michael Reiter is a Redlands, California-based lawyer, serving San Bernardino County and Riverside County in Southern California's Inland Empire. Michael Reiter is a lawyer practicing in the following fields of law: Municipal Law, Code Enforcement Law, Small Business Law and Real Estate Law. Michael Reiter practices in all the local courts, including San Bernardino Superior Court, Riverside Superior Court, and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Michael Reiter was admitted to the California State Bar in 1998. Michael Reiter was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, and Staff Attorney for Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino. Michael Reiter serves all of San Bernardino and Riverside County, Orange County, and Los Angeles County. Michael Reiter can be reached at (909) 296-6708, or by electronic mail at michael@michaelreiterlaw.com. 300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373-5235

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