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California Religious Land Use (RLUIPA) case leaves open substantial burden question

Written by Admin on March 6, 2012 Category: RLUIPA

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently left open an interesting question that many religious land use applicants might be wondering: How much is too much when it comes to the cost of applying for land use permits from local government agencies?

In Guatay Christian Fellowship v. County of San Diego (Dec. 23, 2011, Case No. 09-56541), the Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000cc (“RLUIPA”) because the plaintiff had not actually submitted the application to the county. Such a ruling is consistent with RLUIPA case law that has developed around the nation.

More interestingly, the Ninth Circuit left open the question of whether the sheer cost of applying for a county use permit constituted a substantial burden, as defined under RLUIPA, on the church’s religious exercise. Because the plaintiff had not submitted the application, the Ninth Circuit did not rule directly on the issue in this case.

The religious land use attorneys of Dalton & Tomich are closely monitoring these potential changes in how federal courts both in California and across the country interpret RLUIPA and how it applies to religious organizations of all denominations. Stay tuned.

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Dalton & Tomich, PLC is the national leader in successfully helping churches, other religious institutions and their insurers defend their rights in land use and zoning matters under RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. We have helped clients win cases against municipalities and other local government bodies from coast to coast, with experience serving both as general counsel and special litigation counsel.