Place to Worship Initiative - What is RLUIPA?

The land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq., protect individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws (for information on RLUIPA's institutionalized persons provisions, please refer to the Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Section).

RLUIPA provides a number of important protections for the religious freedom of persons, places of worship, religious schools, and other religious assemblies and institutions, including:

  • Protection against substantial burdens on religious exercise:
    RLUIPA prohibits the implementation of any land use regulation that imposes a "substantial burden" on the religious exercise of a person or religious assembly or institution except where justified by a "compelling governmental interest" that the government pursues in the least restrictive way possible.  42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(a);
  • Protection against unequal treatment for religious assemblies and institutions:
    RLUIPA provides that religious assemblies and institutions must be treated at least as well as nonreligious assemblies and institutions.  42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(b)(1);
  • Protection against religious or denominational discrimination:
    RLUIPA prohibits discrimination "against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination."  42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(b)(2);
  • Protection against total exclusion of religious assemblies:
    RLUIPA provides that governments must not totally exclude religious assemblies from a jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(b)(3)(A); or
  • Protection against unreasonable limitation of religious assemblies:
    RLUIPA states that governments must not unreasonably limit "religious assemblies, institutions, or structures within a jurisdiction." 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(b)(3)(B).

RLUIPA's protections can be enforced by the Department of Justice or by private lawsuits.  The Department of Justice's RLUIPA investigations and enforcement are handled by the Civil Rights Division's Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, and by United States Attorney's Offices around the country.

Documents for further information:

Questions and Answers on the Land Use Provisions of RLUIPA (for a version of the Questions and Answers document with full legal citations, click here)

Information about Federal Land Use Protections (4 page information guide, 2018)

RLUIPA Report and 2016 update

Main RLUIPA information page

Legislative history of RLUIPA

RLUIPA cases

Back to Place to Worship Initiative Main Page

Updated November 7, 2018

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