RESOLUTION NO.:07- [NAME OF GOVERNMENTAL BODY]
TITLE: A RESOLUTION CALLING UPON THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO REPEAL THE RELIGIOUS LAND USE PROVISIONS OF "THE RELIGIOUS LAND USE AND INSTITUTIONALIZED PERSONS ACT OF 2000.
WHEREAS, in the Year 2000 the United State Congress passed, and then President Clinton signed, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") which provided, in part, that "No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly, or institution-(A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest, and
WHEREAS, the impact of the foregoing provisions of RLUIPA has been to hinder the fair and diligent exercise of local government discretion in making land use decisions in applications by religious organizations, as RLUIPA makes it difficult, if not impossible, to determine in each unique application (i) whether denial of an application creates a "substantial burden" on the religious exercise of the applicant, (ii) whether the government interest which is the basis of any denial of such an application is a "compelling" government interest and (iii) whether such denial is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest;
WHEREAS, while the intent of the law may have been to provide fair treatment in land use decisions in applications by religious institutions, the unintended use of the law by some religious organizations may be to broadly define as "religious exercise" all forms of housing, schooling and other land uses which are not related to "religious" exercise;
WHEREAS, the planning and zoning boards of most small and moderate sized municipalities are populated by well-meaning volunteers who are not equipped- even with the assistance of part-time land use and zoning counsel- to act as constitutional and legal scholars in an effort to interpret and apply- to each unique religious land use application- the ever-evolving and somewhat conflicting body of case law arising from the broad language of RLUIPA;
WHEREAS, the existing and evolving court decisions under RLUIPA are unclear as to whether maintaining reduced housing density, maintaining the residential character of a neighborhood or preventing increased traffic and burden on water and sewer resources are considered "compelling" enough considerations in land use applications submitted by religious organizations- even though such considerations are legally appropriate in all non-religious land use applications;
WHEREAS, the impact of RLUIPA has been to greatly diminish control over land use decisions by local municipalities in the impacted applications and to negatively impact the confidence of residents of our communities in the fairness and uniformity of the process involved in the application of local zoning laws;
WHEREAS, the risk of high legal fees in defense of RLUIPA claims and the risk that the defending municipality will have to pay potentially large legal fees of the applicant if the municipality loses an RLUIPA claim, place a substantial financial risk to a small or moderate sized municipality trying to fairly interpret the evolving case law under RLUIPA while protecting the health, welfare and safety of the residents of such municipality, thus creating the very real risk that municipal land use decisions in religious applications have and will be made largely based on the threat of the municipality potentially incurring crippling legal fees than on sound and fair land use considerations and an appropriate interpretation of RLUIPA; and
WHEREAS, our nationís constitution and federal law already contain a variety of equal protection provisions that protect religious freedoms including, without limitation, the Fair Housing Act, and RLUIPA is not necessary to protect religious freedom in the exercise of land use decisions, but such law has had the opposite effect of giving religious organization special privileges and leverage in land use applications not enjoyed by non-religious land use applicants.
NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved, that this body does hereby formally call upon the United States Congress to repeal Section 2 of RLUIPA; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this body is and will continue to be fully committed to applying the letter and intent of RLUIPA in all religious land use applications so long as RLUIPA is applicable federal law; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to each member of the United States Congressional delegation from New York State as well as Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Majority Leader Reid of the United States Senate.