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Friday, July 02, 2010

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit issues important en banc RLUIPA opinion today

This is a case out of Illinois, River of Life Kingdom Ministires v. Village of Hazel Crest, Illinois, before Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and CUDAHY, POSNER, FLAUM, MANION, KANNE, ROVNER, WOOD, WILLIAMS, SYKES , TINDER , and HAMILTON.

The entire opinion is 57 pages. Judge Posner writes for the majority, there are individual dissents at pp. 16, 17, and 18. The lone, and lengthy, dissent, by Judge Stykes, begins at p. 22. Judge Posner begins:

The court granted rehearing en banc to consider the proper standard for applying the equal-terms provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc. That provision states that “no government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.” § 2000cc(b)(1).
Judge Stykes' dissenting opinion begins:
This is an important religious-liberty case. We took it en banc to decide a key question of statutory interpretation involving § 2(b)(1) of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(b)(1)—the statute’s “equal terms” provision—and to resolve a conflict the panel opinion created in our caselaw.

The circuits are divided over how to read this part of RLUIPA. Until this case we had followed the Eleventh Circuit’s interpretation of the equal-terms provision, first announced in Midrash Sephardi, Inc. v. Town of Surfside, 366 F.3d 1214 (11th Cir. 2004), and explained in Konikov v. Orange County, 410 F.3d 1317 (11th Cir. 2005), and Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana of Boca Raton, Inc. v. Broward County, 450 F.3d 1295 (11th Cir. 2006). See Digrugilliers v. Consolidated City of Indianapolis, 506 F.3d 612, 616 (7th Cir. 2007); Vision Church v. Vill. of Long Grove, 468 F.3d 975, 1003 (7th Cir. 2006). The en banc court now prefers the Third Circuit’s approach, announced in Lighthouse Institute for Evangelism, Inc. v. City of Long Branch, 510 F.3d 253 (3d Cir. 2007), though in a slightly modified form. This interpretation departs from the text, structure, and history of RLUIPA, and the conflict in our circuit caselaw remains. With respect, I cannot join the court’s opinion. We were right in Vision Church and Digrugilliers to follow the Eleventh Circuit’s lead; I would build on that start, with some elaboration.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 2, 2010 12:36 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions