Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)

Overview                                                                                                                                                                                       

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, commonly known by its acronym RLUIPA, is a federal law requiring local governments, when implementing and enforcing land use regulations, to do so without burdening the exercise of religion by religious institutions and to treat them in the same manner as nonreligious institutions. When a local government denies or conditions an application to build a house of worship or to expand a building to accommodate religious practice, the religious institution often sues under RLUIPA, claiming discrimination by the local government. Robinson+Cole’s Land Use Group is a national leader in defending RLUIPA claims.

Our Services

RLUIPA cases are often emotionally charged and have high stakes. They can dramatically affect the interests of all stakeholders—including developers, governmental entities, landowners, religious institutions, and entire communities. We provide seasoned advice and counsel to our clients, including the following:

  • To minimize exposure to RLUIPA suits and monetary liability, we work with municipal governments contemplating zoning code changes to evaluate religious land use implications.
  • We defend municipal governments in state and federal courts across the country when RLUIPA cases are brought. In states where we do not have offices, we are frequently admitted pro hac vice. In addition, we also work with a far-reaching network of local counsel across the country.

Our Team

Robinson+Cole lawyers are among the leading authorities on RLUIPA law in the country. Since 2012, we have published the widely acclaimed blog RLUIPA Defense. The blog provides us, and our readers, with cutting-edge knowledge on the latest RLUIPA legal developments. In addition, Robinson+Cole partner Michael Giaimo was a co-editor of the book RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Uses, Zoning, and the Courts, published by the American Bar Association’s Section of State and Local Government Law.

    • Experience
      • Defending the Village of Pomona, New York, in RLUIPA claims brought by a religious organization attempting to bypass the required land use application procedure and process.

      • Defending the Village of Old Westbury, New York, against a religious institution’s RLUIPA and related claims in connection with the village’s conditioned approval allowing the religious institution to construct and operate a cemetery.

      • Represented Boulder County, Colorado, in defending RLUIPA and related claims brought by church looking to expand on a rural site.

      • Represented the American Planning Association as amicus curiae to support the City of Morgan Hill, California’s defense of a RLUIPA lawsuit brought by a religious institution seeking to establish a religious college.

      • Represented a religious institution after denial of site plan and special permit approvals for relocation/expansion. Filed administrative appeals and RLUIPA claims and negotiated a favorable settlement with the City for issuance of permits and approvals.

      • Represented the California Chapter of the American Planning Association as amicus curiae in supporting a petition for the City of San Leandro, California, for a writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court.

    • News
      • June 2, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Write Articles for APA Publication

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      • February 28, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Examine Litigation Trends in RLUIPA Land Use Claims

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      • January 9, 2017

        Evan Seeman and John Peloso Publish Note for Practical Law

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      • October 4, 2016

        Land Use Litigation Lawyers Present at Touro Law Center

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      • August 9, 2016

        Evan Seeman Participates in Webinar on Planning for Religious Uses

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      • June 2, 2016

        Evan Seeman Writes about Religious Exercise in Planning Magazine

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      • May 19, 2016

        Hartford Land Use Lawyers Publish Article on Religious Land Use Applications in Connecticut Planning

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      • March 8, 2016

        Land Use Lawyers Negotiate Settlement Allowing Soup Kitchen to Remain Open

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      • February 4, 2016

        Robinson+Cole RLUIPA Defense Lawyers Featured in News

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      • October 29, 2015

        Dwight H. Merriam Honored with Professional Excellence Award by Connecticut Law Tribune

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        • View article
      • October 27, 2015

        Evan Seeman Presents at APA RLUIPA Webinar

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      • July 6, 2015

        Land Use Lawyers Present IMLA Webinar on Avoiding and Defending RLUIPA Suits

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      • March 6, 2015

        Land Use Lawyers Present at Touro Law's Bagels with the Boards CLE

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      • February 13, 2015

        Evan Seeman Presents on Religious Land Use Litigation at ABA Midyear Meeting

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      • January 22, 2015

        Evan Seeman Writes Article on RLUIPA Defense Tactics

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      • December 4, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Speak on Religious Land Use Litigation

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      • July 30, 2013

        Hartford Lawyers Co-author Article on Religious Land Use

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      • May 22, 2013

        Robinson & Cole Lawyers Provide Pro Bono Support to Norwich Soup Kitchen

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      • October 26, 2012

        Evan Seeman Speaks to Connecticut Association of Zoning Enforcement Officials About Religious Land Use

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      • March 30, 2012

        Trial and Land Use Lawyers Present Webinar on Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act

      • March 16, 2011

        Dwight Merriam Speaks on Recent Developments under RLUIPA

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    • Publications + Presentations
    • "RLUIPA Case of the Year? Minnesota Municipality Uses RLUIPA’s Safe Harbor Provision to Avoid Liability," published in Planning & Law, co-authored by Evan J. Seeman, Karla L. Chaffee, Dwight H. Merriam and John F. X. Peloso Jr. (Spring 2017)
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      "RLUIPA Land Use Claims—Latest Litigation Trends and Key Case Law Developments," co-presented by Evan J. Seeman, John F. X. Peloso Jr. and Karla L. Chaffee, webinar (2/22/2017)
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      "Avoiding and Defending Against RLUIPA Claims," published in Practical Law, co-authored by Evan J. Seeman and John F. X. Peloso Jr. (12/22/2016)
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      "Update on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)," co-presented by Hiram B. Carey III, Karla L. Chaffee and John F. X. Peloso Jr. (9/23/2016)
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      "Planning for Religious Uses in an Age of Religious Diversity and Lawsuits," co-presented by Evan J. Seeman and land use lawyers Daniel P. Dalton and Noel W. Sterett, a webinar hosted by the Planning Webcast Series and sponsored by the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association (8/5/2016)
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      "Defining Religious Exercise," published in Planning, authored by Evan J. Seeman, in the Legal Lessons column (May 2016)
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      "FHA, RLUIPA & Telecommunications Act Compliance," presented by Evan J. Seeman, at the American Planning Association's (APA) National Planning Conference in Phoenix, Arizona (4/3/2016)
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      "How to Avoid and Defend RLUIPA Suits," co-presented by Evan J. Seeman, Karla L. Chaffee and Michael S. Giaimo (6/8/2015)

      "Finding Salvation in Religious Law's Safe Harbor," published in Connecticut Law Tribune, authored by Evan J. Seeman (3/23/2015)
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      • View article

      "RLUIPA Defense: Avoiding and Defending RLUIPA Claims," co-presented by Evan J. Seeman, Hiram B. Carey III and Karla L. Chaffee, spoke at the Touro Law Center's Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Institute's inaugural Bagels with the Boards CLE (2/27/2015)
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      "Religious Land Use Litigation Since 2000," presented by Evan J. Seeman, served as panelist at ABA Midyear Meeting (2/5/2015)
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      "RLUIPA Defense Tactics; How to Avoid & Defend Against RLUIPA Claims," published in Zoning and Planning Law Report, authored by Evan J. Seeman (December 2014)
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      "RLUIPA," presented by Dwight H. Merriam, co-moderated with Professor Daniel R. Mandelker of Washington University School of Law webinar on Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA); sponsored by International Municipal Lawyers Association (12/8/2014)

      "A $6.5 Million Lesson in RLUIPA Defense," published in Planning & Law, authored by Evan J. Seeman (Summer/Fall 2014)
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Our Team

Members