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Justice Department sues Michigan city for violating religious land use act
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Justice Department sues Michigan city for violating religious land use act

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that the city of Troy, Michigan, violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied the Adam Community Center’s application for a zoning variance to operate as a place of worship.

The complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleges that the City of Troy “unduly burdened” the Muslim group by treating the organization differently than it would a nonreligious assembly. RLUIPA was enacted to prevent discriminatory zoning practices by requiring land use regulations to treat religious assemblies the same as nonreligious assemblies.

The complaint alleges that the City’s denial of approval for the Center, and its unequal treatment of all places of worship in the City compared to nonreligious uses, violates a provision of RLUIPA that requires religious assemblies to be treated at least as well as nonreligious assemblies. The suit also alleges that the City’s actions imposed a substantial burden on the Center’s religious exercise in violation of another provision of RLUIPA.

The DOJ contends that the City of Troy’s zoning laws allowed a nonreligious assembly, like a banquet hall or a theater, to operate without further approval, whereas a religious assembly would need permission. Such a dichotomy would violate the RLUIPA.

This complaint continues the DOJ’s recent work on its Place to Worship Initiative.