American flag waving in blue sky

Written by Don Byrd

A profile of recent Justice Department investigations under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) reveals a sharp increase in claims of religious discrimination by Muslim organizations in local zoning decisions. A Detroit News report finds that while Muslim groups represented 14% of RLUIPA cases prior to 2010, they comprise 44% of cases since that time, including each of the most recent eight cases.

Here is an excerpt from the story:

[The Justice Department’s Eric] Treene said an increasing number of minority faiths are discriminated against in land use decisions. He spoke earlier this month at a roundtable of religious and legal leaders in Detroit.

“So it really is bearing out what Congress was looking at when they passed RLUIPA,” Treene said, using an acronym for the law. “Yes, this is a problem that affects everybody, Christians, Jews, Hindus. Yet often minorities are disproportionally affected, and if there is a disfavored minority — really that has turned to be Muslims in recent years — that is where we see the most stark numbers.”

It should be no surprise to anyone who has followed the news the last few years that Muslim Americans face increasing discrimination and mistreatment on many levels.  We should have the least tolerance for abuse of that kind coming from the very government officials who are charged with representing all constituents, regardless of our faith. Fortunately, RLUIPA holds local governments to a very high standard before they can reject zoning requests from houses of worship or other religious organizations.

For more, see the BJC’s resource page on RLUIPA. Also, check out the Know Your Neighbor campaign launched by the BJC and several other organizations, designed to facilitate interfaith dialogue and promote understanding.