Source: Los Angeles Times
On August 5, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that a bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously last week that "would make it more difficult for cities to use zoning laws to keep churches, temples and mosques out of their neighborhoods. President Clinton is expected to sign it into law." Further, "another portion of the bill seeks to ensure that people in institutions, such as mental hospitals and prisons, can freely practice their faith as long as it does not undermine security, discipline or order in their institutions." The chief House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Charles T. Canady (R-Fla.), said "some city officials would deliberately exclude all new churches from an entire city. Other cities have refused to permit churches to use existing buildings that nonreligious groups previously used and still others intentionally change zoning rules to exclude churches." However, "under the new bill, local zoning and land use regulations would not be allowed to 'place a substantial burden on the exercise of religion' unless municipal officials could demonstrate a 'compelling government reason' to justify their actions." Those who support the bill say that "zoning officials often interfere with religious practice in ways that are discriminatory."