DOJ Announces Initiative to Protect Places of Worship From Land Use Discrimination

The U.S. Department of Justice Wednesday launched an initiative to prevent local governments from using zoning laws to discriminate against churches and other religious groups.

The new “Place to Worship Initiative” will focus on “protecting the ability of houses of worship and other religious institutions to build, expand, buy, or rent facilities—as provided by the land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).”

“In recent years, the cultural climate has become less hospitable to people of faith and to religious belief,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s annual leadership mission in Washington. “Many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack. This feeling is understandable. Religious Americans have heard themselves called deplorables. They’ve heard themselves called bitter clingers.”

Commending DOJ and the Trump administration for “placing a much-needed focus on the freedoms churches and other religious groups have under this federal law,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Erik Stanley said in a statement. “No city should use its zoning laws to engage in religious discrimination. Unfortunately, in the 18 years since Congress passed RLUIPA, local governments have done just that, blatantly disregarding the law.”

Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, said his group has litigated “numerous lawsuits to defend the freedoms that churches and other religious organizations have under RLUIPA.”

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Source: Christian Post