Guru Nanak Sikh Soc'y v. Cty. of Sutter

456 F.3d 978 (9th Cir. 2006)



For a land use regulation to impose a "substantial burden," it must be oppressive to a significantly great extent. That is, a "substantial burden" on religious exercise must impose a significantly great restriction or onus upon such exercise.


Plaintiff religious group was denied a conditional use permit to build a temple on a 1.89-acre parcel that was zoned residential. It then sought a permit to build a smaller temple on a 28.79-acre parcel that was zoned agricultural. It agreed to accept all of the defendant county planning division's conditions on the land's use. Although the planning commission gave its approval, the county board of supervisors denied the group's application because the temple would contribute to "leapfrog development." The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, which alleged that the county violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied the group's application to build a temple on land zoned agricultural. On appeal, the court affirmed. 


Did the county's denial of plaintiff's application substantially burden its religious exercise within the meaning of RLUIPA?




In affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment to the group, the court held that the county's denial constituted a substantial burden under the RLUIPA because the stated reasons behind the denial and a previous denial of the application to build the temple on a parcel of land zoned residential, to a significantly great extent lessened the possibility of the group constructing a temple in the future. The court also held that the RLUIPA was a permissible exercise of Congress' remedial power under the Fourteenth Amendment because it targeted only regulations that were susceptible, and had been shown to violate individuals' religious exercise.

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