by Jones Day
Client(s) Christian Legal Society, Hindu American Foundation, Coalition for Jewish Values
Jones Day filed a pro bono amici brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, on behalf of the Christian Legal Society, the Hindu American Foundation, and the Coalition for Jewish Values, under federal and state religious liberty laws, in support of the right of a Buddhist association to obtain zoning approval in Mobile, Alabama for its new worship facility. Jones Day’s brief argued that the district court had adopted an overly narrow interpretation of the U.S. Congress’s Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) and had improperly applied the “strict scrutiny” test that applies under RLUIPA and the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment (“ARFA”).
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Agreeing with Jones Day’s position, in a published opinion for a unanimous panel, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that generalized interests in “neighborhood character and zoning” and “traffic safety” did not qualify as compelling interests under ARFA justifying a burden on religious exercise and that the City of Mobile had failed to present necessary specific evidence to justify its supposed concerns. The Court then rendered judgment for the religious claimants on this claim.
As to RLUIPA, the Court vacated the district court’s decision that the City’s actions had not imposed a “substantial burden” on the Buddhist association’s religious exercise, which Jones Day’s brief argued lost sight of this ultimate question in applying the relevant legal standard.
Thai Meditation Association et al. v. City of Mobile, Alabama, No. 22-11674 (11th Cir. 2023)
Originally published by Jones Day