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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended August 27, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 07Sep00

Summarized by Michael Nielsen

Bill Would Help Religious Groups Win Zoning Cases

WASHINGTON, DC -- A bill sponsored by LDS senator Orrin Hatch would ease local land-use restrictions for religious groups. The bill, which now awaits approval by President Clinton, would have significant implications for churches and other religious groups.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 would change current practice in zoning cases. Typically, if a religious group is denied building approval by a zoning commission, the group must demonstrate an unconstitutional motivation for the denial. The new law would place the burden instead on the local governmental authority, requiring it to establish a compelling governmental interest for such denials.

The bill has important implications for religion in the country. For example, Congregation Beth Tikvah, in Columbus Ohio, has been denied approval by local authorities to expand its congregation. Neighbors concerned about increased traffic flow urged the denial of the congregation's request to expand and to operate an early-childhood program. Under the new law, zoning commissions and county boards would not be able to deny an expansion project for such reasons.

The measure "requires the government to justify such decisions with a good reason and that it be the least restrictive possible on the church's right of religious freedom,'' said Steve Aden, of the Rutherford Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious-rights cases.

Readers of Mormon News will recall a similar controversy surrounding the LDS Church Boston Temple. Residents near the temple building site protested its construction on several fronts. Lengthy appeals won the church the right to build the temple, but one appeal has kept the Church from completing the building's steeple. Church officials have decided to dedicate the building without the steeple, hoping that they will eventually win an appeal and add the steeple later. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 would substantially alter the balance of power in such cases.


Faith groups back land-use bill
Columbus OH Dispatch 27Aug00 T1
By Robert Albrecht: Dispatch Staff Reporter


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