The Justice Department’s Suit Against the Village of Airmont, NY – RLUIPA Unhinged
RLUIPA Should Be Revised or Repealed so it Cannot be Bastardized and Used to the Detriment of non-Religious and non-Observant
The below lawsuit filed against the village of Airmont, New York, is a prime example of the use and abuse of RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act). In theory, RLUIPA was instituted to allow repressed religions a measure of specified and enumerated rights whereby overly burdensome laws that would or might suppress religious practice could be overturned. However, it has been used instead by religious groups to suppress the rights of everyone else, an unintended consequence of drafters who did not consider how it could go awry.
In Rockland County, New York, Orange County, New York, Lakewood and Jackson Township, New Jersey and in other places around the country, RLUIPA has been bastardized to allow for entire communities, school districts, single family zoned towns and districts to be sued by well-served Ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups. It has been manipulated to allow Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities to be built, fostered, strengthened and funded by the suppressed individuals RLUIPA fails to protect. In other words, the under-served in many of these communities, public school children, blacks, browns and Hispanics and other minority groups, have been the counterbalanced “repressed” to a law that should have never gained the traction it has gained.
The following, a Justice Department investigation into Airmont, New York is one such example. And the lobbyists that are touting that letter are members the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC), a group whose mission is the “counter the defamation and generalization of the Orthodox Jewish Community.” It should be noted that OJPAC appears from the publicity it obtains, its vast media networks, its social media platforms, its website and the attorneys that represent it to be very well-funded; but the 990’s for the organization tell a very different story. That’s an article for a different day.
Suffice it to say, the lawsuit against the village of Airmont is a travesty of justice for everyone living in Rockland County who is not ultra-Orthodox or religiously fervent.
From the Department of Justice Website, here.
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.
- 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.