Tuesday, December 13, 2016
The federal government's RLUIPA suit against Culpeper County (Va.) for denying permit to Islamic group
The United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit yesterday against Culpeper County, Virginia. The suit alleges that the County's denial of a "pump-and-haul" permit, which had the effect of preventing the Islamic Center of Culpeper from constructing a small mosque on land it purchased in the county, violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"). The facts alleged in the complaint add up to what look to be winning claims. If anything, I'm wondering why there hasn't also been a private suit as well (as far as I'm aware anyway).
Also, as a matter of litigation strategy, is there a good reason that the DOJ didn't also include a Free Exercise claim, something like an as-applied version of the Hialeah case? I understand that the RLUIPA claim would be much easier to prevail upon. But including a Free Exercise claim in which intent to discriminate could be in issue would open the door to more extensive discovery, which in turn could have the effect of prompting a quicker resolution. Any thoughts?