June 16, 2018

Positivity: ‘Much-needed’ initiative aims to protect churches from zoning discrimination

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Washington:

Jun 15, 2018 / 06:31 am

Protecting places of worship from zoning discrimination is the focus of a new initiative from the Department of Justice, announced earlier this week.

The ‘Place to Worship’ initiative aims to increase awareness of religious institutions’ right to build, expand, buy or rent facilities.

These land-use provisions are already provided for in the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which protects religious institutions from discriminatory or unduly burdensome zoning practices. However, these rights have come under threat recently in several legal cases.

In a statement announcing the initiative, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the provisions protect not only the private act of worship, but the public exercise of religion provided for in the Constitution.

“Under the laws of this country, government cannot discriminate against people based on their religion – not in law enforcement, not in grant-making, not in hiring, and not in local zoning laws,” Sessions said. “President Trump is an unwavering defender of the right of free exercise, and under his leadership, the Department of Justice is standing up for the rights of all Americans. By raising awareness about our legal rights, the Place to Worship Initiative will help us bring more civil rights cases, win more cases, and prevent discrimination from happening in the first place.”

Goals of the new initiative include raising awareness of these rights through community outreach events, educating municipal officials and religious organizations about RLUIPA’s requirements, and providing additional training and resources for federal prosecutors regarding these cases.

The DOJ also launched a new website containing additional information about RLUIPA for religious institutions and lawyers, as well as a complaint portal and Q&A section.

Non-profit legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has represented several religious clients in RLUIPA lawsuits, applauded the initiative for providing a “much-needed” focus on religious freedom. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

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