“Third Church: Southern District Interprets Equal Terms Provision of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000”
On December 2, 2008, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (the “Court”) rendered a decision in Third Church of Christ, Scientist, of New York v. City of New York. In Third Church, the Court applied the Equal Terms Provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), to a lease (the “Lease”) of a church building at 583 Park Avenue, New York, New York (the “Property”). The Lease was by the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, of New York (the “Church”) to a catered event business, the Rose Group, permitting the Rose Group to hold catered social events (“Catering Business”) on the Property. The Court ruled that the City of New York (the “City”) violated the Equal Terms Provision of RLUIPA because the Church was treated more harshly than other secular groups in applying the Zoning Resolution of the City of New York (“Zoning Resolution”) and did not show a compelling interest in discriminatorily applying the Zoning Resolution.
This article provides a brief overview of the decision and its potential implications on properties owned, used, leased and/or operated by religious institutions.