Thursday, August 05, 2010


Here comes the lawsuit:

... The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, filed suit Wednesday to challenge a city panel's decision to let developers tear down a building to make way for the mosque two blocks from ground zero....

Yes -- the suit was filed by the ACLJ, which has spent years trying to make it legally harder to block the construction of houses of worship:

... many of the groups leading and supporting the campaign against the so-called mosque have a history of arguing in favor of religious freedom on similar cases.

The American Center for Law and Justice, the legal advocacy group leading the charge, has argued repeatedly and forcefully in federal court on at least three occasions that local land-use laws such as historical landmark designations don't trump the religious and property rights of religious groups to build houses of worship....

Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in 2000 at the urging of religious-rights groups. The law creates strong protections for churches and other houses of worship from local governments using zoning and other land-use laws to restrict them, essentially saying that if local municipalities interfere with religious institutions, they'd better have a very good reason for doing it.

The ACLJ has made abundant use of RLUIPA to argue that local governments can't prevent houses of worship from being built wherever and whenever the worshipers like. In 2000, the ACLJ sued Elizabeth City, N.C., under RLUIPA for what its leader called "the city's discriminatory actions in refusing to grant [church and rehab center] Teen Challenge zoning approval to operate its ministry." The group's website says it "remains committed to the principle that the use of zoning laws to curtail the religious freedoms of churches is unconstitutional."...

Indeed, the group's site does say that.

Not much to add, really. When groups like the ACLJ talked about defending "houses of worship," we never really believed they meant all houses of worship, did we?

(Oh, and also note in the second link above that the Anti-Defamation League has also sued frequently to prevent challenges to the construction of religious institutions, on behalf of Christians and Sikhs as well as Jews, and is now taking the opposite position.)

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