RLUIPA at 10

September 22, 2010

Today is the tenth anniversary of the passing of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled in City of Boerne v. Flores that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was unconstitutional, and thus local city officials could prevent a Catholic church from expanding its building in the city's historic district. The bipartisan law, passed in 1993 and signed by then-President Bill Clinton, demanded government officials demonstrate a "compelling interest" before interfering or restricting religious freedoms. As a result of the Flores decision, Congress passed and Clinton signed RLUIPA in 2000. Although slightly more narrow than the 1993 law, it still applied the same "compelling interest" standard to religious freedom cases involving zoning issues and prisoners. Today, the Justice Department released a report outlining the impact of the law in its first ten years. Don Byrd at the blog of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has a great summary of the report. The report notes that religious and ethnic minorities have particularly needed the religious freedom protections provided by this law. Additionally, it seems to confirm growing attempts in recent months to impede the religious freedoms of Muslims. Clearly more work is needed to protect the religious liberty rights of all.