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Churches in people's homes

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
24
I am wondering if any of you have had to deal with people holding religious services in their own homes. I am not talking about having some friends over for a prayer session, but actually advertising through flyers and on the web about services at a residence.

Has anyone else dealt with this?

Here is the website:

http://passion4god.com
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,985
Points
29
I found this old text concerning your question.

1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Passed by Congress September 25, 1789. Ratified December 15, 1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
9,870
Points
38
Adding to El Guapo's comments...

AN ACT
To protect religious liberty, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000'.
SEC. 2. PROTECTION OF LAND USE AS RELIGIOUS EXERCISE.
(a) SUBSTANTIAL BURDENS-
(1) GENERAL RULE- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly, or institution--
(A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(2) SCOPE OF APPLICATION- This subsection applies in any case in which--
(A) the substantial burden is imposed in a program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability;
(B) the substantial burden affects, or removal of that substantial burden would affect, commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability; or
(C) the substantial burden is imposed in the implementation of a land use regulation or system of land use regulations, under which a government makes, or has in place formal or informal procedures or practices that permit the government to make, individualized assessments of the proposed uses for the property involved.
(b) DISCRIMINATION AND EXCLUSION-

(1) EQUAL TERMS- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.
(2) NONDISCRIMINATION- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation that discriminates against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination.
(3) EXCLUSIONS AND LIMITS- No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation that--
(A) totally excludes religious assemblies from a jurisdiction; or
(B) unreasonably limits religious assemblies, institutions, or structures within a jurisdiction.
SEC. 3. PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS EXERCISE OF INSTITUTIONALIZED PERSONS.
(a) GENERAL RULE- No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution, as defined in section 2 of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. 1997), even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person--
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
(b) SCOPE OF APPLICATION- This section applies in any case in which--
(1) the substantial burden is imposed in a program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance; or
(2) the substantial burden affects, or removal of that substantial burden would affect, commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes.
SEC. 4. JUDICIAL RELIEF.
(a) CAUSE OF ACTION- A person may assert a violation of this Act as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution.
(b) BURDEN OF PERSUASION- If a plaintiff produces prima facie evidence to support a claim alleging a violation of the Free Exercise Clause or a violation of section 2, the government shall bear the burden of persuasion on any element of the claim, except that the plaintiff shall bear the burden of persuasion on whether the law (including a regulation) or government practice that is challenged by the claim substantially burdens the plaintiff's exercise of religion.

(c) FULL FAITH AND CREDIT- Adjudication of a claim of a violation of section 2 in a non-Federal forum shall not be entitled to full faith and credit in a Federal court unless the claimant had a full and fair adjudication of that claim in the non-Federal forum.

(d) ATTORNEYS' FEES- Section 722(b) of the Revised Statutes (42 U.S.C. 1988(b)) is amended--

(1) by inserting `the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000,' after `Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993,'; and
(2) by striking the comma that follows a comma.
(e) PRISONERS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to amend or repeal the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (including provisions of law amended by that Act).
(f) AUTHORITY OF UNITED STATES TO ENFORCE THIS ACT- The United States may bring an action for injunctive or declaratory relief to enforce compliance with this Act. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to deny, impair, or otherwise affect any right or authority of the Attorney General, the United States, or any agency, officer, or employee of the United States, acting under any law other than this subsection, to institute or intervene in any proceeding.

(g) LIMITATION- If the only jurisdictional basis for applying a provision of this Act is a claim that a substantial burden by a government on religious exercise affects, or that removal of that substantial burden would affect, commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes, the provision shall not apply if the government demonstrates that all substantial burdens on, or the removal of all substantial burdens from, similar religious exercise throughout the Nation would not lead in the aggregate to a substantial effect on commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes.

SEC. 5. RULES OF CONSTRUCTION.
(a) RELIGIOUS BELIEF UNAFFECTED- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief.
(b) RELIGIOUS EXERCISE NOT REGULATED- Nothing in this Act shall create any basis for restricting or burdening religious exercise or for claims against a religious organization including any religiously affiliated school or university, not acting under color of law.

(c) CLAIMS TO FUNDING UNAFFECTED- Nothing in this Act shall create or preclude a right of any religious organization to receive funding or other assistance from a government, or of any person to receive government funding for a religious activity, but this Act may require a government to incur expenses in its own operations to avoid imposing a substantial burden on religious exercise.

(d) OTHER AUTHORITY TO IMPOSE CONDITIONS ON FUNDING UNAFFECTED- Nothing in this Act shall--

(1) authorize a government to regulate or affect, directly or indirectly, the activities or policies of a person other than a government as a condition of receiving funding or other assistance; or
(2) restrict any authority that may exist under other law to so regulate or affect, except as provided in this Act.
(e) GOVERNMENTAL DISCRETION IN ALLEVIATING BURDENS ON RELIGIOUS EXERCISE- A government may avoid the preemptive force of any provision of this Act by changing the policy or practice that results in a substantial burden on religious exercise, by retaining the policy or practice and exempting the substantially burdened religious exercise, by providing exemptions from the policy or practice for applications that substantially burden religious exercise, or by any other means that eliminates the substantial burden.
(f) EFFECT ON OTHER LAW- With respect to a claim brought under this Act, proof that a substantial burden on a person's religious exercise affects, or removal of that burden would affect, commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes, shall not establish any inference or presumption that Congress intends that any religious exercise is, or is not, subject to any law other than this Act.

(g) BROAD CONSTRUCTION- This Act shall be construed in favor of a broad protection of religious exercise, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this Act and the Constitution.

(h) NO PREEMPTION OR REPEAL- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to preempt State law, or repeal Federal law, that is equally as protective of religious exercise as, or more protective of religious exercise than, this Act.

(i) SEVERABILITY- If any provision of this Act or of an amendment made by this Act, or any application of such provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this Act, the amendments made by this Act, and the application of the provision to any other person or circumstance shall not be affected.

SEC. 6. ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE UNAFFECTED.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of the first amendment to the Constitution prohibiting laws respecting an establishment of religion (referred to in this section as the `Establishment Clause'). Granting government funding, benefits, or exemptions, to the extent permissible under the Establishment Clause, shall not constitute a violation of this Act. In this section, the term `granting', used with respect to government funding, benefits, or exemptions, does not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions.
SEC. 7. AMENDMENTS TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT.
(a) DEFINITIONS- Section 5 of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb-2) is amended--
(1) in paragraph (1), by striking `a State, or a subdivision of a State' and inserting `or of a covered entity';
(2) in paragraph (2), by striking `term' and all that follows through `includes' and inserting `term `covered entity' means'; and
(3) in paragraph (4), by striking all after `means' and inserting `religious exercise, as defined in section 8 of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.'.
(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Section 6(a) of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb-3(a)) is amended by striking `and State'.
SEC. 8. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) CLAIMANT- The term `claimant' means a person raising a claim or defense under this Act.
(2) DEMONSTRATES- The term `demonstrates' means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.
(3) FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE- The term `Free Exercise Clause' means that portion of the first amendment to the Constitution that proscribes laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
(4) GOVERNMENT- The term `government'--
(A) means--
(i) a State, county, municipality, or other governmental entity created under the authority of a State;
(ii) any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, or official of an entity listed in clause (i); and
(iii) any other person acting under color of State law; and
(B) for the purposes of sections 4(b) and 5, includes the United States, a branch, department, agency, instrumentality, or official of the United States, and any other person acting under color of Federal law.
(5) LAND USE REGULATION- The term `land use regulation' means a zoning or landmarking law, or the application of such a law, that limits or restricts a claimant's use or development of land (including a structure affixed to land), if the claimant has an ownership, leasehold, easement, servitude, or other property interest in the regulated land or a contract or option to acquire such an interest.
(6) PROGRAM OR ACTIVITY- The term `program or activity' means all of the operations of any entity as described in paragraph (1) or (2) of section 606 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d-4a).
(7) RELIGIOUS EXERCISE-
(A) IN GENERAL- The term `religious exercise' includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.
(B) RULE- The use, building, or conversion of real property for the purpose of religious exercise shall be considered to be religious exercise of the person or entity that uses or intends to use the property for that purpose.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
24
My concern is the traffic generated by this "church" and the fact that this is a house in a residential neighborhood and that the City was not informed of the church...
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
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9,870
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That's the inherent problem with RLUIPA!

jtfortin wrote:
My concern is the traffic generated by this "church" and the fact that this is a house in a residential neighborhood and that the City was not informed of the church...
I understand the concerns, and in a perfect world, you'd regulate them accordingly.

The attorneys and speakers I've talk to basically say that RLUIPA doesn't only level the playing field for religious facilities...it gives them preferential treatment. We can only hope that this eventually makes it to the Supreme Court to narrow the breadth and scope of the law. I'm all for equal treatment, but the preferential treatment assumed under RLUIPA is frankly scary.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
33
I understand

But the RLUIPA does strengthen their position.

You can still apply zoning regulations, but their basic right to assembly and worship are off limits regardless of whether your Code does not classify them as "permitted".

This is one for legal counsel, me thinks...
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,550
Points
55
Already considered in my ultimate Land Development Code. It probably stretches the the RLUIPA as far as it will go.



308.7 Place of worship or assembly

308.7.1 Intent
There is no doubt that churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship play a positive role in their host communities, especially in (insert town name here) where they are an integral part of the built and social environment.

Recent trends in organized religion include changes to the role churches play to their congregations and the communities as a whole. A modern church can unintentionally affect the built environment in less than desirable ways. Excessive traffic, parking, noise, special events, building scale and design, and site design are some factors associated with churches that have an impact on the character of residential areas. By not generating weekday pedestrian traffic, and presenting the appearance of vacant space, the presence of a church in a shopping center or retail district can affect its dynamics and vibrancy, and deter retail establishments and restaurants.

Places of worship and assembly must be planned carefully, to ensure they have the same positive impact on the town’s built environment as they do on the spiritual development and quality of life of its citizens.

308.7.2 Definition
Place of worship or assembly -- building containing a hall, auditorium or other suitable rooms used for conducting religious or other services or meetings. Places of worship or assembly include churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and similar institutions, but not commercial endeavors or “outreach operations” such as rescue missions, homeless shelters, and social service agencies.

308.7.3 Permitted locations
Places of worship or assembly are considered subject to special review in all districts.

Parochial schools are permitted per §308.8.

308.7.4 Conditions

The following criteria will also be considered in determining special review approval for a place of worship, along with standard review criteria for special review uses.
* Traffic generation, parking and circulation, and the potential impact on surrounding areas.
* Building and site design, including architecture, landscaping, lighting, signage and other features.
* Building size and scale, and compatibility with surrounding existing and future land uses.
* Potential noise detectable at the property line.
* Accessory uses, including schools, day care, outreach programs, and offices for organizations directly related to the institution.
* Potential impact on the vitality of a commercial district, if applicable.
* If the use is the “highest and best use” of commercial or industrial land, if applicable.

A place of worship in the C-V, C-G and I-G districts will not be considered a place of worship when considering spacing requirements for uses and business practices that must be located a certain distance from a place foi worship.

The location of a place of worship within a designated restricted distance of a use that is subject to spacing requirements from a place of worship will not render the use non-conforming.

Note

Town land use regulations are not intended to restrict or control the peaceful assemblage of those who share a common belief or faith. However, Town regulations are also intended to preserve the bucolic character of its residential neighborhoods, and the vitality and viability of retail areas.

Social groups, activity groups, spiritual development groups and organizational committees related to a congregation may meet in a congregant’s home without special use approval. Likewise, small gatherings of people for ceremonies that could be described as the equivalent of a religious service do not require special use approval.

It is difficult to define a line that separates study groups, prayer groups, and social groups meeting in private residences, versus the use of a house as a church. When such gatherings regularly have an impact on the surrounding area that exceeds what would normally be expected of a house, or changes the residential character of the home, the house could be considered a “place of worship,” and subject to the regulations above.


 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
Yeah and if you want to get down to it, based on the square footage of the house there is an occupancy limit which would be determined by the Fire Marshall.
 
Messages
15
Points
1
Religious land use

Repo Man said:
I am wondering if any of you have had to deal with people holding religious services in their own homes. I am not talking about having some friends over for a prayer session, but actually advertising through flyers and on the web about services at a residence.

Has anyone else dealt with this?

Here is the website:

http://passion4god.com
It is not exactly what you are referrring to but I just submitted something on the Kiosk regarding the Illinois Supreme Court decision. Refer to Religious Land Use.

Mod Edit (nerudite): Actually, the Kiosk isn't an appropriate place for that type of post, as the Kiosk is typically for job announcements, conference announcements or other items that do not spur further discussion. I moved your post into another thread regarding zoning and religion, and your post can be found here.. Please feel free to introduce yourself as well, in the appropriately named 'introduce yourself' subforum. Thank you!
 
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ablarc

Cyburbian
Messages
713
Points
20
NHPlanner said:
I understand the concerns, and in a perfect world, you'd regulate them accordingly.
No, you wouldn’t; you’d butt the hell out.

This whole thread is hogwash.

There is no issue here except mean-spiritedness and control-freakery.

Mean-spritedness on the part of neighbors. Who cares about traffic on Sunday morning? Anyway, what traffic? A few people coming and going from church? You have to be a grade-A asshole to object to that. In which case you have plenty of room to shove it.

Control-freakery: there is no reason whatever for any government agency to get involved in this.

Church-going folk don’t piss on your front lawn.
 

Michele Zone

BANNED
Messages
7,657
Points
28
Let's say you are poor and cannot afford a church (I am thinking here of some guy named Jesus). And you want to spread the word -- to everyone and anyone who will listen. And you decide to get together in people's homes...

I think any attempt to regulate religious assembly discriminates against poor folks, etc: if thou art rich, thou mayest begin your own church in your mansion. if thou hast taken a vow of poverty and/or just are too busy do-gooding to get rich before you start your church, you cannot start your church until you come up with the money to get a Proper Place of Assembly -- and never mind that your lack of a congregation will make it impossible to raise the funds. :rolleyes:

Also, I don't understand the objection to giving "preferential" treatment to religion. It isn't just another entertaining way to pass the time, like going to the football game. I know that plenty of people in church aren't exactly saints. (Heck, one of the reasons I stopped going was because of rampant hypocrisy -- the people sitting in church on Sunday morning congratulating themselves and each other for being better than everyone else who was not there.) But shouldn't that which is intended to elevate the human spirit and has the potential to make people better human beings be given "preferential" treatment over stuff like sports, drunken parties, etc?? Shouldn't that which is sacred be treated as such?? Why is it easier to hold legal principles sacred (like "innocent until proven guilty") than religion? (Now, if you get wind that it isn't REALLY a religious assembly -- it is really a bunch of drug dealers/bookies/whatever calling it a religion as a cover story -- that would be a different matter.)

And for a bunch of generally sprawl-hating folks who would like higher density, hey, traffic is part of that. In Europe, when you go to something like the early morning fresh fish market, the cars and people are packed in like sardines, inching along. So?

eG said it best. Sometimes, the old texts are best: they have stood the test of time for a reason.
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
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Moderator
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5,398
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So, for the sake of discussion, you have a neighbor that has, say 15 car loads of folks on Sunday mornings. Then they get folks on Wednesday evenings as well. Then your neighbor on the other side starts having folks over at his place on Saturdays and Thursdays and at midnight on every full moon their service requires the killing of a goat. Far fetched, maybe, but where do you draw the line on regulation.
 

Michele Zone

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giff, your example sounds like a nightmare. But does that make it a zoning issue? Shall we start interceding in domestic violence cases? Family fueds? Just because there is friction between two neighbors does not mean it is a zoning issue. Ideally, I would think that a diplomatic solution would be in order, not a strong-arm-of-the-law solution. I know that most folks won't make any attempt to resolve it diplomatically but there ARE other options. Your comments imply a "guilty until proven innocent" point of view. My point of view includes "Gee, they have grown so much and probably need a better assembly place to meet the needs of their growing congregation. Perhaps they don't know their options or what resources are available and could use some help with registering as a nonprofit and doing a fundraising campaign, looking for grants...."

I know that when I talk about issues like this, everyone thinks I am some pie-in-the-sky, namby-pamby, clueless little person who has never, ever faced REAL problems. But it doesn't happen to be true.
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
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Michele Zone said:
giff, your example sounds like a nightmare. But does that make it a zoning issue? Shall we start interceding in domestic violence cases? Family fueds? Just because there is friction between two neighbors does not mean it is a zoning issue.

So killing goats in the back yard is not a zoning issue? What if it wasn't religous? What if bubba just butchered a hog now and then to fill the freezer? So if you live in single familiy residential, you can do what ever you want on your own property now matter how much it disturbs the neighborhood? What is zoning for if it can offer no protection from such things?
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
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ablarc said:
Church-going folk don’t piss on your front lawn.
You've obviously never been to Kentucky.

[ot]
El Guapo - I've got the consitution and all the amendments on my plam pilot now. You should be proud of my advancement into the realms of conservativism!
[/ot]
 

Michele Zone

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giff57 said:
So killing goats in the back yard is not a zoning issue? What if it wasn't religous? What if bubba just butchered a hog now and then to fill the freezer? So if you live in single familiy residential, you can do what ever you want on your own property now matter how much it disturbs the neighborhood? What is zoning for if it can offer no protection from such things?
Let me try to clarify my point, which is obviously about as clear as mud:

No, religion does not have carte blanche to do anything at all. You cannot commit human sacrifice just because you worship Baal. You cannot have 4 wives in America just because you are Muslim. And you have to, as Jeff noted, comply with maximum occupancy for fire safety reasons. So, obviously, you could go ahead and do the research to see what code violations, et al, you can go after them for.

However, since the real issue here is friction between the neighbors, and you cannot legally deny them their constitutional right to assemble and the assembly itself is the underlying (and untouchable) source of the friction, enforcing codes will not get a real resolution. That does not mean you cannot find a real solution but I think enforcing zoning codes will fail to give satisfaction and is likely to merely fuel the conflict until you have a full-blown feud going. If the neighbors are complaining, rather than researching what zoning codes you can enforce, it might be better to research how it is possible to get to a real solution through some other means.

At the homeless shelter where I did my internship, it is against the rules for the residents to hang wet towels over the wooden bed frames. They did it all the time and it was a real source of friction between residents and staff. The staff were incredibly upset and legitimately worried about the bedframes getting mildewed, etc. However, the residents were not allowed to do laundry on the premises and taking the laundry to a laundromat was too inconvenient for them to do laundry daily. So the residents had no other viable options for dealing with damp towels after showering every day. I suggested that we buy towel racks to put in the bedrooms and then researched it to find towel racks that would work well for the shelter. I have never again heard the staff going ballistic about damp towels hanging over bedframes. (Towel racks in the bedrooms is sort of counter-intuitive: we don't put towel racks in the bedrooms in normal homes. So I am not surprised that no one ever thought about it before I brought it up.)

Sometimes people are not merely being willfully difficult and are all too happy to stop causing trouble if they are given the means to meet their needs in an acceptable fashion. But starting with an accusation and punative measures will make it very hard to get their cooperation in finding a real solution. I am sure that all the times the staff got mad at the residents about the damp towels, none of the staff ever stopped to ask the residents why they kept disobeying the rules. The staff genuinely has a tough job to do and when things get too stressful, the presumption tends to be that the homeless residents are simply ill-behaved people who don't care about the rules -- which is a normal human tendency and you will find the same presumptions made about irritating neighbors (who may not realize they are being irritating).
 
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ablarc

Cyburbian
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20
giff, you're being ridiculous. Goat-killing can be handled in other ways by someone besides zoning authorities. Here, I'll go you one better: suppose the religious folk plot to blow up Federal installations and national landmarks. Are you going to handle that with zoning enforcement?
 

NHPlanner

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ablarc said:
No, you wouldn’t; you’d butt the hell out.

This whole thread is hogwash.

There is no issue here except mean-spiritedness and control-freakery.

Mean-spritedness on the part of neighbors. Who cares about traffic on Sunday morning? Anyway, what traffic? A few people coming and going from church? You have to be a grade-A asshole to object to that. In which case you have plenty of room to shove it.

Control-freakery: there is no reason whatever for any government agency to get involved in this.

Church-going folk don’t piss on your front lawn.
No, I didn't butt out. I organized both sides of the issue (this was 2 years ago), the religious community and concerned citizens.....held several workshops, and came up with appropriate revisions to our regulations and zoning where compromises were made, and the intent of RLUIPA was understood and abided by.

Religious facilites aren't just a sunday morning operation anymore. Many are holding meetings, have daycare and schools, and a broad range of activities. Location of these in residential neighborhoods where roads are not designed to handle the amount of traffic involved are issues the local government should be involved in.

As RLUIPA puts it, religious facilities should not be treated any differently than any type of assembly land use. And the fact of the matter is that assembly land uses are subject to zoning. End of rant.
 

Michele Zone

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A) I like NHPlanner's approach. It fits with my basic premise of bringing the two sides together and using diplomatic means to find a real solution.

B) I don't think it was a "Rant", I think it is the most practicable answer to the original question. My main point was just that complex problems don't have easy answers and slapping x, y, or z code violation on the people isn't going to fundamentally fix a complex situation.

C) I will now excuse myself from the rest of this discussion because I don't actually have experience with writing zoning codes or enforcing them and I am in over my head. :-$
 
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