Land Use & Institutionalized Persons (3)
Dialog on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) makes the government meet a very tough standard for a land use regulation that imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise, including for churches. Obviously an important initial question is whether the regulation does impose a substantial burden. A Fourth Circuit case issued January 31, 2013, Bethel World Outreach Ministries v. Montgomery County Council, develops the “substantial burden” standard in a way that may help other churches facing zoning issues.
Prisoners have the right to attend religious services and sometimes that right can be legitimately taken away. In this case, a prisoner was banned from religious gatherings for six months. On March 13, 2012, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision that a prisoner's rights were not violated under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The prisoner had created a disturbance in a Muslim religious meeting that required intervention by thirty officers. Banning him from religious gatherings for six months was part of his discipline.
The Third Circuit issued an opinion on February 9, 2012, deciding a prisoner RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act) case that contained an issue of first impression. The importance of this case for future reference will likely be the holding that RLUIPA does not permit government employees to be sued as individuals, but only in their governmental capacity. (The act protects both religious land use, such as for churches in zoning issues, and religious expression in institutions such as prisons.)