Religious Centers File Lawsuits Over Zoning Restrictions

May 19, 2002

Source: Los Angeles Times

On May 19, 2002, the Los Angeles Times reported that "at least seven churches, synagogues and religious schools throughout the state [of California] have filed lawsuits against cities as part of a nationwide effort by religious groups to use a new federal law to overturn local zoning restrictions... The groups are invoking the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, passed in 2000, to gain leverage in states where they say churches are routinely denied building permits in favor of projects that bring in tax revenue. The law prohibits any land use regulation that is a 'substantial burden' on the practice of religion... So-called mega-church proposals are behind many of the lawsuits. The projects... are too big for residential neighborhoods, but they don't bring in the sales tax revenue that cities look for in their commercial zones."