Church’s RLUIPA suit dismissed on ripeness grounds, avoiding decision on prudential standing

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Cassidy v. City of Brewer, (D ME, Nov. 19, 2012), a Maine federal district court dismissed on ripeness grounds a RLUIPA religious discrimination claim because plaintiff did not appeal the decision of the city’s code enforcement officer to the zoning board of appeals. As reported by the Bangor Daily News, Rock Church had wanted to expand in rented space in a shopping center, but the code enforcement officer held that the expansion would lose the church’s status as a nonconforming use.  The court held that it did not need to decide whether the church’s landlord as a RLUIPA plaintiff must meet prudential standing requirements as well as Article III standing requirements, saying: 

If he must, then the Magistrate Judge is certainly correct that this commercial landlord plaintiff, who is not a religious institution and whose church tenant has abandoned his lease, does not meet those requirements in bringing this RLUIPA challenge against the City of Brewer.  But there are cases that read RLUIPA’s language as requiring that a plaintiff meet only the Article III standing requirements and not the additional prudential requirements.

The federal magistrate judge’s opinion in the case, dealing at length with the standing issue, is at  2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165723 (Sept. 12, 2012).