The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and has been used primarily to defend religious institutions in land-use disputes. It also is used to guarantee the religious rights of the incarcerated.
The federal act has been invoked several times in Colorado and Wyoming church zoning cases, including Rocky Mountain Christian Church’s case against Boulder County currently being considered by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Other cases:
In 2000, Greenwood Community Church sought to expand its building and parking, but the city of Greenwood Village, arguing that RLUIPA was unconstitutional, denied the requested amendment to the church’s special-use permit
Our Lady of Loreto Catholic Parish, 18000 E. Arapahoe Road, used a small building on church property as a temporary chapel while its church was being built, until the town of Foxfield passed a parking ordinance making it illegal to park more than five cars for more than 15 minutes within 1,000 feet of a private residence. The town then sued the Archdiocese of Denver for violation of the new ordinance. The archdiocese argued that the rule violated RLUIPA, Colorado’s “Freedom to Gather to Worship Act” and the U.S. Constitution. The trial court rejected the archdiocese’s RLUIPA defense but was reversed by the Colorado Court of Appeals in 2006. In 2007, the Colorado Supreme Court refused Foxfield’s petition to hear the case.
In 2002, the law was used during negotiations between the city of Lafayette and Flatirons Community Church, when the church proposed to convert a shuttered Country General store into a 1,200-seat sanctuary. The city had attempted to block the move by making churches in the commercial zone pass through a special-use review. A compromise was reached, allowing the church to occupy the
In 2003, Grace United Methodist Church sued the city of Cheyenne in federal court, claiming RLUIPA was violated when the city denied a request to build a large day-care center that would be open 6 a.m. to midnight on property owned adjacent to the church that was not zoned for the use. In what is believed to be the first jury trial to consider RLUIPA, the city prevailed. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the ruling in 2005.