Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 12, 2013

LA Appellate Court Rejects RLUIPA Claim Finding Lease Payments Do Not Impose a Substantial Burden on Religious Exercise

Pursuant to a local ordinance that sets forth regulations with respect to the use and lease of rights-of-way within the comprehensive zoning ordinance for the commercial parkway overlay zone, a local bookstore within the zone.  The bookstore is operated by a non-profit that has a community of religious women who vowed their lives to sharing their beliefs through media. The Parish attempted since 2002 to enter into a lease with the bookstore pursuant to the local ordinance, and in 2008 they filed an action against the bookstore for failing to lease the parking spaces it was using in the Parish’s right-of-way, seeking $18, 816.00 for the failure to lease the property from 2003-2008.  The bookstore countered asserting, among other things, that the commercial parkway overlay zone violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The trial court held that RLUIPA did not apply, and the bookstore appealed, claiming that ordinance imposed a substantial burden on the exercise of its religious beliefs under RLUIPA.

While the Court agreed that Pauline Books was a religious institution exercising its religious freedom, the Court said that it failed to establish a prima facie case that the zoning ordinance imposes a substantial burden on its exercise of religion. The court determined that the leasing of the right-of-way does not infringe on their religious behavior and that the financial burden of leasing is not a great restriction or onus on their religious exercise. The Court said, “we do not find Pauline Books’ inconvenience of either having to find alternate parking around the building or having to possibly increase its income rises to the level of ‘substantial burden’ intended by RLUIPA.”

The court held that the required lease payments do not impose a substantial burden on Pauline Books religious exercise.

Parish of Jefferson v Daughters of St. Paul, Inc., 113 So. 3d 371 (La. App. 5 Cir. 3/27/2013)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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