The Pacific Justice Institute filed a friend of the court brief arguing that the denial by the Township violates federal law. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) was enacted in 2000 in response to the unequal and often hostile treatment that religious institutions receive at the hands of local governments. RLUIPA requires that a religious assembly be treated on equal terms with secular assemblies or institutions. Arguing on behalf of the seminary, PJI pointed out to the appellate court that the Township’s municipal code allows public schools to erect any building in areas zoned residential without having to even obtain the consent of the Zoning Hearing Board. The brief explains that a seminary is quite similar to a public school campus because both are: (1) institutions, (2) assembly uses, and (3) exempt from taxation under Pennsylvania law. Because of this, blocking First Korean from using its property as a seminary campus was a violation of federal law.
“What is happening to the seminary is the type of unequal treatment that RLUIPA was designed to address,” stated Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “PJI is committed to helping churches and other religious institutions receive the protections provided under the law,” Dacus continued.