WASHINGTON – To commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a federal law that protects persons and religious institutions from discriminatory land use regulations, the Justice Department announced several efforts to increase awareness of RLUIPA’s protections. The department will host a series of outreach events and has released updated informational materials about RLUIPA to provide an overview of the law and the department’s enforcement efforts, as well as information about how to identify and report violations.
“Over the last 23 years, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act has helped to combat religious discrimination by protecting the civil rights of faith communities across the country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “In light of continued anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination, the Justice Department stands ready to use federal civil rights law to ensure that communities can use their property for worship and to freely engage in religious exercise. The anniversary of RLUIPA provides an opportunity to underscore our commitment to protecting religious rights and ensuring that people are able to freely use land to worship and practice their faith.”
“RLUIPA provides important protections for religious groups throughout New Jersey,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey. “Our office is committed to combatting religious discrimination and ensuring that religious groups are treated fairly and equally under local land use laws. We look forward to increasing awareness of RLUIPA and co-hosting this important event with Seton Hall Law School.”
The department’s first RLUIPA outreach event will take place at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, New Jersey, on Oct. 30. The event will include remarks from officials with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, religious leaders in New Jersey whose organizations have benefited from RLUIPA’s protections and attorneys who have experience litigating RLUIPA cases. The department will host additional events across the country in the coming months, including in California and Michigan. For more information about these events, please see the department’s RLUIPA website. All events will be open to the public.
RLUIPA was passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law on Sept. 22, 2000, and contains provisions covering religious land use and religious exercise by people who are incarcerated. Since RLUIPA’s passage, the department has opened over 150 formal investigations and filed 28 lawsuits and 34 friend of the court briefs related to RLUIPA’s land use provisions. In June 2018, the Justice Department announced its Place to Worship Initiative, which focuses on RLUIPA’s provisions that protect the rights of houses of worship and other religious institutions to worship on their land. More information is available at www.justice.gov/crt/placetoworship.
Individuals who believe they have been subjected to religious discrimination in land use or zoning decisions may contact the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section at (833) 591-0291 or may submit a complaint through the complaint portal on the Place to Worship Initiative website. More information about RLUIPA, including questions and answers about the law and other documents, may be found at www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/rluipaexplain.php.