WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today issued a report marking the 10th anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), showing that the law has had a positive impact on protecting the religious freedom of a wide range of faith groups, and had a particularly significant impact protecting the religious freedom of minorities.
RLUIPA protects places of worship and other religious uses of property from discrimination and unreasonably burdensome regulation in zoning and landmarking law, and also protects the religious freedom of persons confined to institutions such as prisons, mental health facilities and state-run nursing homes. RLUIPA was enacted by both houses of Congress unanimously and signed into law on Sept. 22, 2000. The law was a response to concerns that places of worship, particularly those of religious and ethnic minorities, were often discriminated against in zoning matters.
The report illustrates that in the 10 years since its enactment, RLUIPA has aided thousands of individuals and institutions from a wide range of faith traditions through Department of Justice lawsuits, private lawsuits, and successful efforts to achieve voluntary compliance.
The report details the Justice Department’s enforcement record:
The department has opened 51 RLUIPA land-use investigations, filed seven lawsuits, filed ten amicus-briefs, and intervened in 71 lawsuits to defend RLUIPA’s constitutionality.
Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist land-use cases made up a disproportionate number of the department’s RLUIPA investigations–13 times their representation in the population.
Half of the department’s land-use investigations involving Christians have involved racial or ethnic minorities.
Of the 18 land-use matters involving Muslims reviewed by the Department of Justice, eight have been opened since May of this year.
“The freedom to practice one’s faith in peace is among our most cherished rights. RLUIPA has proven to be a powerful tool in combating religious discrimination and ensuring religious freedom for all individuals,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to vigorously enforcing RLUIPA to ensure that religious liberty for all remains protected.”
The land-use provisions of RLUIPA are enforced by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section. More information may be found at www.justice.gov/crt/housing. The institutionalized persons provisions of RLUIPA are enforced by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section. More information may be found at www.justice.gov/crt/split. More information about both of these provisions, and the Civil Rights Division’s efforts to combat religious discrimination more broadly, may be found at www.justice.gov/crt/religiousdiscrimination. Please visit www.justice.gov/crt/rluipa_report_092210.pdf for the full report.