Acting U.S. Attorney Weinreb Highlights Obligations of Cities and Towns Under Religious Anti-Discrimination Law
BOSTON – Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb sent a letter to cities and towns across Massachusetts highlighting the obligations of cities and towns under a federal law that prohibits religious discrimination. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) protects against substantial burdens on religious exercise, unequal treatment, and unreasonable limitation for religious assemblies and institutions such as churches, mosques, and synagogues.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is charged with ensuring that religious institutions and organizations have an equal opportunity to buy and develop land free from unreasonable and burdensome restrictions. To aid in this effort, the U.S. Attorney’s Office recently sent the attached letter to cities and towns highlighting their obligation to comply with RLUIPA.
RLUIPA, which was enacted in 2000, ensures that religious institutions are protected from unduly burdensome, unreasonable, and discriminatory zoning and landmarking. The protections apply widely to religious schools, religious camps, religious retreat centers, and religious social service facilities such as group homes, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens. Among other things, RLUIPA prevents municipalities from placing restrictions or burdens on land use by religious organizations that are not applied to comparable secular institutions.
“All Americans have the right to come together and worship in accordance with their religious beliefs, free from unreasonable burdens,” said Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb. “This letter will help cities and towns throughout Massachusetts understand the requirements of the law and ensure that they do not unintentionally discriminate against religious individuals and institutions.”
The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was established in 2015 with the mission of enhancing federal civil rights enforcement. For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights.