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The 5th Circuit establishes an Equal Terms test under RLUIPA

Written by Daniel P. Dalton on June 14, 2011 Category: RLUIPA

Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Elijah Group v. City of Leon Valley, Texas. This case has a significant impact on religious land use matters within the Fifth Circuit adn throughout the nation. Elijah Group, Inc. (“Church”) sued the City of Leon Valley (“City”) alleging that the City’s prohibition of the Church from performing religious services on certain properties violated Texas state law, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc(b)(1), and both the Texas and U.S. Constitutions. At issue was whether the district court properly dismissed the Church’s claims under the Equal Terms Clause of the RLUIPA. The court held that the City’s imposition of its land use regulation violated the Equal Terms Clause where the ordinance treated the Church on terms that were less than equal to the terms on which it treated similarly situated nonreligious institutions. Accordingly, the district court’s order granting the City’s motion for summary judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings. The importance of this case cannot be understated for pending religious land use matters within the Fifth Circuit. This is a terrific case for religious institutions nationwide.

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