Book Review – RLUIPA Reader

RLUIPA Reader : Religious Land Uses, Zoning, and the Courts. Michael S. Giaimo and Lora A. Lucero, editors. ABA, Section of State and Local Government Law : American Planning Association, 2009. ($79.95| Paperback.  ISBN:  978-1-60442-358-7|  195 pages).

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) prohibits a government from imposing a land use regulation in a manner which places a substantial burden on religious exercise.  The typical RLUIPA case involves denial of a land use permit or variance to build or expand a place of worship or related building.  The RLUIPA Reader offers information about the statute and case law, as well as practical advice, opinions, insights and future predictions.

There are few books currently available on RLUIPA.  Major practice sets such as Zoning and Land Use Controls by Patrick J. Rohan contain a basic discussion of the statute and case law. This book goes beyond the basics and offers perspectives and advice from practitioners.  Moreover, the RLUIPA Reader is intended not only for attorneys, but for community planners and the parties involved in RLUIPA situations – the religious land use applicant, local government, neighbors, and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, which enforces RLUIPA.

This book is useful for any academic law library, county law library, city law department or a law firm library, if the firm has a substantial practice in zoning law.  The RLUIPA reader is a must for any school with a heavy emphasis on urban planning and/or land use law.  Students will find the book interesting, easy to understand and a great resource for writing a paper.  This book brings out the highly controversial nature of RLUIPA, as well as highlighting several interesting fact situations from actual RLUIPA cases.

Each chapter of the book has a different author or authors.  The authors are community planners, attorneys practicing in the area of land use or municipal law, or law professors specializing in land use.  From the description at the beginning of the book, one can see that all the authors have considerable education and experience in land use law and religious land use issues.  The editors are attorneys specializing in land use and also have backgrounds in city planning.

The chapters are written in a straightforward manner.  The authors cite to many relevant cases, statutes and legislative history documents and there are footnotes at the end of each chapter.  Each chapter ends with a conclusion and/or discussion of what to expect in the future.  While each chapter has a different author, the work flows together and each chapter builds on each other.

The first chapter of this book summarizes U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence concerning Constitutional rights to religious freedom.  A 1990 case, Employment Division v. Smith held that neutral, generally applicable laws could not be challenged under the Free Exercise clause.  This decision prompted religious and civil rights groups to lobby for federal legislation imposing strict scrutiny of laws found to substantially burden a religious individual or institution.  Chapter 2 discusses two earlier attempts at such legislation.  This chapter also discusses the legislative history of RLUIPA.

The next three chapters offer different perspectives of RLUIPA: from an attorney who represents religious land use applicants, an attorney who represents neighborhood groups, and a review of Department of Justice documents.   The second half of the book offers practical information including a summary of RLUIPA case law, advice from a local government lawyer, how local governments can avoid RLUIPA challenges, advice from a planner and top ten tips.  The last chapter discusses whether RLUIPA should be reformed or repealed.  The end of the book contains an appendix reprinting the land use provisions of RLUIPA, a table of cases and an index.

In conclusion, this book is valuable for anyone needing practical information and insights into RLUIPA, as well as a basic discussion of the statute, legislative history and case law.

Sue Altmeyer, Electronic Services Librarian, Cleveland Marshall College of Law

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