Our friends and colleagues over at RLUIPA Defense blog Evan Seeman and Dwight Merriam have posted on a case is generating some media attention, and might be interesting to watch.
Orlando wants -- what else -- a new sports venue. A soccer stadium. And the city is using -- what else -- eminent domain to get it. One property standing in the way is a family-owned parcel which currently is being used for a church. [Barista's note: soccer, you have hit the Big Leagues when municipalities are using their eminent domain power to take private property for your stadiums.] You know the drill: city offers low, owners want high, a deal doesn't materialize, and the next thing you know, eminent domain complaint filed.
So check out "RLUIPA & Eminent Domain – City of Orlando to Take Church Property to Construct Major League Soccer Stadium." And while you are at it, see our earlier missives about when religious land use intersects with the power of eminent domain. In many cases, including this one from the Hawaii Supreme Court -- it doesn't turn out favorably for the church. Many if not most cases hold that condemnation is not a "land use" as that term is defined in RLUIPA. Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to us (Congress wanted to limit the authority of state and local governments to regulate land, but not to confiscate it outright?), but there it is. For an interesting twist on the issue, see this case from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which upheld the ability of a municipality to take blighted private property and turn it over to a church for a nominal fee without violating the Establishment Clause. Inverse RLUIPA?
Read more about the Orlando case -- including links to relevant decisions on the relationship between RULIPA and eminent domain -- here.