Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Religious Liberties Act `Compromise' Compromises Local Authority

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Religious Liberties Act `Compromise' Compromises Local Authority

Article excerpt

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) have drafted an alternative to S. 2081, the Religious Liberty Protection Act, and hope to take the new "compromise" bill directly to the Senate floor shortly. The new bill, S.2869, the "Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000" ("RLUIPA"), interferes with and preempts the traditional and historic rights of local governments and goes far beyond what is necessary to preserve the free exercise of religion.

The Religious Liberty Protection Act recently passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives. The House leadership has stated that it is willing to accept the new compromise language in conference if the Senate enacts S.2869. Also, the Administration has indicated that the President would be willing to sign the measure into law if it is sent to him in its current form.

This alternative bill is aimed squarely at preempting local authority in the areas of land use decision-making and jail operations. This legislation appears to be a direct attack on local governments' authority to govern theft communities, and in total contradiction to the principles of federalism this Congress has sought to revive. The legislation would establish a special, federalized land use standard solely applicable to religious institutions, rendering locally approved land use plans and zoning derision's null and void in the context of religious facilities. Local elected officials have consistently opposed this type of federal intrusion. …

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