Nadler Applauds Supreme Court Decision Upholding Religious Liberty

May 29, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn and Manhattan) hailed today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).

Rep. Nadler, along with Rep. Charles Canady, was the original sponsor of the legislation which passed, and was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000.

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized that the Congress has the authority to protect the fundamental religious rights of all Americans,”   Rep. Nadler said.  “The Supreme Court ruled that the claim that protecting the free exercise of religion somehow violates the Constitution’s Establishment clause (as the plaintiff argued) is unfounded.”

The legislation protects the rights of religious people in two important areas:

  • in the area of land use, where zoning is often used to exclude religious institutions or communities,
  • with respect to people confined to institutions, such as prisons or hospitals.

“The record is abundantly clear:  the Constitution does not stop at the gates of a prison, and no community may abuse its power to exclude religious communities or to prevent their growth,” said Rep. Nadler.

The legislation, known popularly as RLUIPA, was a response to two earlier decisions by the Supreme Court which limited the protections of the First Amendment, and Congress’ previous effort to restore those protections.  RLUIPA was carefully crafted to meet the Court’s earlier objections.

In today’s decision, in the case of Cutter v. Wilkinson, the Supreme Court upheld RLUIPA against a challenge by the state of Ohio, which argued that it violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

“After years of work, the Court has upheld Congress’ efforts to protect religious liberty.  While the Court’s original 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which made these legislative efforts necessary, was wrongly decided, I am glad that the Court has upheld our efforts to remedy the injustices that decision has caused,”  said Rep. Nadler.

“The legislation strikes an appropriate balance:  the government may not burden a person’s religious liberty unless it can demonstrate that it has used the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.  Simple inconvenience, or hostility, are not legitimate reasons to violate a person’s religious rights,” said Rep. Nadler.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Persons Act of 2000, was introduced as H.R. 4862, by Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on July 18, 2000.  It was signed into law as Public Law 106-274 on September 22, 2000.