Justice Department Settles Allegations of Disability and Religious Discrimination Against Nashville, Tenn.
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced a settlement resolving allegations that the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (Metropolitan Government) violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by discriminating against Teen Challenge, a Christian substance abuse treatment program.
In a federal lawsuit filed in September 2008, the U.S. government alleged that the Metropolitan Government discriminated against individuals with disabilities in violation of the FHA and imposed a substantial burden on religious exercise in violation of RLUIPA. According to the complaint filed by the U.S. government, the Metropolitan Government denied Teen Challenge a building permit to operate in Goodlettsville, Tenn., and amended its zoning code in a manner that prevented Teen Challenge from using the property. The settlement resolves the U.S. government’s claims as well as a related lawsuit filed by Teen Challenge and participants in Teen Challenge’s program.
"Cases like this show how the FHA and RLUIPA work together to ensure that persons with disabilities are not discriminated against and that religious groups seeking to aid those persons can operate without unjustifiable burdens," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
"Discrimination of the type alleged in this case should never be tolerated by a free society," said U. S. Attorney Ed Yarbrough following the settlement. "Substance abuse programs perform a valuable service to persons suffering from addiction." he added.
The settlement, which must still be approved by the court, requires the Metropolitan Government to train nearly 100 employees and officials who make zoning and land use decisions on the requirements of the FHA and RLUIPA, to appoint a compliance officer to receive complaints and ensure compliance with the settlement, and to provide periodic reports to the Justice Department. As part of the settlement, the Metropolitan Government rescinded the amendment to its zoning code that affected Teen Challenge and adopted a reasonable accommodation policy for individuals with disabilities.
The Metropolitan Government will also pay a $20,000 civil penalty to the United States and $50,000 to participants in Teen Challenge’s program. Monetary relief to Teen Challenge is being determined by the final court order in the related case of Teen Challenge International, Nashville Headquarters, et al. v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.