Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Federal Law keeps City of Surfside from fining orthodox jews for daring to rent office space and pray

The 11th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in this opinion and held that it prohibits the City of Surfside from banning churches but not clubs and organizations from its business district.

I think the opinion bears reading for any land use attorney who might have to deal with onerous (facially or because of the local government's attiitudes) special exception requirements for locating churches, but what's really compelling is the story of Surfside's war on small Orthodox congregations using the Zoning Code and Code enforcement to try to run them out of town.

It's a truly scary thought that the search for "ratable" commecial uses would reach a point where a City would actually argue that allowing a small congregation to rent and use office space to hold services would harm the economic well-being of the community. So the lost sales tax on one or two offices is going to crush the City's finances? Please.

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