RLUIPA injunction claim survives in suit over building permit for private chapel

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Anselmo v. County of Shasta, California, (ED CA, June 7, 2012), the devout Roman Catholic owner of a ranch and winery challenged the County of Shasta for its refusal to allow him to build a private chapel on his land. The county claimed that the building was inconsistent with the agricultural use zoning on the property, with the Williamson Act contract on it, and claimed that it was subject to the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. A California federal district court permitted plaintiff to proceed with claims for an injunction against enforcement of a portion of the county building code and its zoning laws under the “substantial burden” provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  However, it dismissed plaintiff’s free exercise and due process claims, his RLUIPA “equal terms” claim, and his RLUIPA claim insofar as it related to county enforcement of the Americans With Disabilities Act against the chapel. The court also found that an individual defendant (a county official) had qualified immunity as to a claim for money damages under RLUIPA’s substantial burden provision.