Key point. The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act prohibits state and local governments from imposing a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion unless the regulation is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
* A federal district court in Michigan ruled that a city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by denying a church the right to use its property for church purposes on the basis of a parking ordinance. A church congregation wanted to relocate because an increasing number of members lived in another part of town. The church found a two-story building in the target area and began considering its purchase for use as a church. The building was located in a zoning district in which churches were a permissible use. To operate as a church, however, a "certificate of occupancy" had to be obtained.
The church's pastor began meeting with the city's zoning director. The pastor claimed that the director welcomed the church's purchase of the property and assured him that the building could be used as a church. Based on these representations, the church purchased the building. The pastor later alleged that the church would never have purchased the building if the zoning director had not represented that the building could be used as a church.
Several months later, after discovering that the building was being used for church services, the city sent a letter to the pastor indicating that the church would have to vacate the building because it did not have a certificate of occupancy permitting the use of the property as a church. A state trial court later issued an order requiring the church to cease and desist using the building.